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Afghan Delegation to Meet Taliban Leader in Pakistan

Afghan officials seeking peace with the Taliban say they will soon travel to Pakistan to speak to Taliban second-in-command Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

An announcement from Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office following a London summit Wednesday said that an agreement was reached in London for a delegation from Afghanistan's High Peace Council to meet in the near future with Baradar.

The High Peace Council is the Afghan body tasked with opening negotiations with Taliban insurgents.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's special assistant on foreign affairs, Tariq Fatemi, said Pakistan has no objection to the meeting.

"We will play a supporting role because we recognize that peace and stability in Afghanistan is essential for peace and stability in Pakistan and we want to live as good neighbors," Fatemi said.



In Kabul, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan expressed hope that a security agreement with the Afghan government is within reach.

"I think we are close to concluding a bilateral security agreement which we regard as an important thing for the future of Afghanistan and the future of our relationship," Ambassador James Cunningham said.

But he also cautioned that not much can be accomplished unless agreement is reached on the issue of U.S. legal authority over the remaining American troops in Afghanistan.



"This is a sensitive issue as you know. President Karzai reserved that issue to consultation with the Jirga and we respect that. The document does provide for U.S. legal authority over U.S. military personnel. And it is just a fact that if the agreement isn't concluded, much of what we hope to do together with Afghanistan in the future, won't be possible."



For almost a year, Washington and Kabul have been seeking to conclude a Bilateral Security Agreement that will help determine how many U.S. soldiers and bases remain in Afghanistan after most foreign combat troops exit by the end of next year.

Washington demands that its troops be immune from Afghan law and tried in the United States instead.

Baradar was arrested in Pakistan in 2010 and remains there under Pakistani supervision even after his release from prison last month.

The decision for Afghan officials to meet Baradar was made in London Tuesday at a meeting attended by President Karzai, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Reports after the meeting said Mr. Sharif will travel to Afghanistan next week for high-level meetings.

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