Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said for the first time that he has talked with Taleban militants about bringing reconciliation to the country.

At a news conference in the capital, Kabul, Friday, Mr. Karzai said representatives of the Taleban movement have been meeting with Afghan government officials for some time.

Taleban representatives later denied the president's claim.

Mr. Karzai also repeated his offer to hold talks with Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

He said the Afghan Taleban are "always welcome" in Afghanistan.  But added that foreign militants, an apparent reference to Pakistan-based rebels, are not.

Mr. Karzai also ruled out any more deals with the Taleban to free Afghans or foreigners kidnapped by insurgents. 

The Afghan government has been widely criticized for freeing Taleban prisoners in exchange for the release of an Italian journalist held in captivity for two weeks.

Last year, Afghanistan experienced a huge rise in abductions and attacks against the Karzai government and NATO forces by Taleban rebels, thought to be based in Pakistan.

The strict Islamic Taleban regime was ousted from Afghanistan by a U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.