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Karzai Returns from Qatari Talks on Taliban

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has returned home from a two-day visit to Qatar where he discussed the possibility of having the Taliban open a political office there to help move Afghanistan's peace process forward.

Mr. Karzai met Sunday with the Qatari emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, to explore peace initiatives and Qatari investments in Afghanistan.

The Afghan president arrived in the Gulf nation on Saturday, alongside his foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul and the chairman of Afghanistan's High Peace Council Salahuddin Rabbani.

Mr. Karzai has long insisted that any peace process with the Taliban be an Afghan-led one. Previously, he was opposed to the militant group having a meeting place outside Afghanistan.

The United Nations this week welcomed President Karzai's trip to Qatar and issued another call for the Taliban to come to the negotiating table.

Mr. Karzai has stressed that he would only start talks with the Taliban if they broke all links with al-Qaida and gave up violence. But the Taliban has repeatedly refused to talk with the Karzai administration, calling it a "puppet regime" of the U.S.-led coalition.

Speaking to the French news agency, a Taliban spokesman said the group's opening of any office in Qatar would not be related to the Afghan president, but rather, it would be a matter between the Taliban and the Qatari government. The spokesman also said that any Taliban representatives already in Qatar would not see or talk to Mr. Karzai.

The international coalition fighting in Afghanistan is in the middle of handing security control of the country to the Afghan national forces as nearly all coalition combat troops mobilize to leave the country by the end of next year.

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