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    Afghanistan's Karzai Calls for Talks with Taliban

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    Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has made a call for peace to fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar, saying he has asked the king of Saudi Arabia to help in talks with the militant group to bring an end to the insurgent activities.  Meanwhile, neighboring Pakistan has named a new head of the country's spy agency, which is suspected of having ties with Taliban militants.  From Islamabad, Ayaz Gul reports.

    President Hamid Karzai disclosed that for the past two years he has been in regular contact with the king of Saudi Arabia, urging him to facilitate peace talks between the Afghan government and insurgent Taliban leader, Mullah Omar.  

    The Afghan president was speaking to reporters in Kabul at the start of the Muslim festival of Eid-al Fitr. 

    President Karzai says that as a leader of the Islamic world, he has been urging the Saudi king to help the Afghan government in establishing peace, security and reconciliation in the country. He reiterated his call for peace with fugitive Taliban leader, Mullah Omar. Calling on the insurgent Taliban leader as his brother, the Afghan president urged Mullah Omar to stop the killing of his people and return home to work for the peace and security of Afghanistan.

    But Mr. Karzai denied reports that Afghan politicians have already held direct talks with Taliban insurgents in Saudi Arabia.  He said that his representatives have traveled to neighboring Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to seek help, but negotiations with insurgents will only take place inside Afghanistan. 

    Taliban insurgents have long refused to hold talks with the U.S-backed Karzai administration, saying they will continue attacks until international troops leave Afghanistan.

    Insurgent attacks have intensified in Afghanistan this year, with commanders of the U.S-led coalition forces calling for increased troop levels to combat the insurgency.

    A roadside bomb killed three coalition troops Tuesday in southern Afghanistan.  Taliban-led insurgent attacks have killed more than 220 foreign soldiers in the country this year, the highest number of casualties since the U.S-led coalition dislodged the Taliban from power in late 2001. 

    Afghan and Coalition commanders also allege Taliban insurgents are using sanctuaries in neighboring Pakistan to launch cross-border attacks. They also suspect that elements in the Pakistani spy agency, Inter-Services-Intelligence or ISI, are helping the militants.

    Pakistan denies the allegation and has appointed Lieutenant General Ahmed Shujaa Pasha as the new head of the spy agency.  He has been overseeing anti-Taliban operations in the country's volatile tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, which are know for harboring Taliban and al-Qaida militants.


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