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Karzai Renews Call for Dialogue with Taliban

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, wearing an academy gown, delivers a speech as he receives an honorary doctorate at Nippon Sport Science University in Tokyo, July 9, 2012.
TOKYO — Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai has renewed his call for talks with the Taliban, one day after international donors pledged $16 billion in aid for the reconstruction of his country.

Karzai says his administration will give top priority to establishing a peace process with the Taliban to stabilize the country and consolidate the gains made in the past 10 years.

"All those Taliban and other militant bodies that are working against their own country now are welcome to participate in the life of the country and to benefit from the laws and the freedom that Afghanistan offers today, with the condition that they respect the Afghan constitution, that they continue with the rebuilding of Afghanistan and that they renounce violence," he said.

The Afghan president said he believes dialogue with the Taliban is essential to solving the ongoing conflict. He says negotiations should no longer be affected by the presence of foreign troops in the country, which the militants have repeatedly denounced.

"As the presence of the international community in Afghanistan is a reality, so is the need for [the Taliban] to participate in any peace talks that we may have together," he said. "But primarily it is for us Afghans to get together and see to it that the country sees better days and that Afghans all join hands for a better country."

Karzai maintains that after the withdrawal of all combat troops by 2014, the presence of foreign soldiers will be negotiated on a bilateral basis. He says, in the case of the United States, military bases will be allowed on a provisional basis for a period of 10 years.

Karzai also invited neighboring Pakistan to participate in the peace process by arranging talks between the Afghan government and Taliban leaders present in Pakistan. On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined her Afghan and Pakistani counterparts in calling for Taliban fighters to join the reconciliation effort.