|Karzai called on his US and Nato allies to focus on Taliban targets across the border in Pakistan [AFP]
Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has called on Taliban leaders to stop fighting against his government and join peace talks to end the country's long-running conflict.
In a message marking the Muslim Eid holiday on Friday, he also called on his US and Nato allies, which now have 150,000 troops in the country, to focus on Taliban bases over the border in Pakistan rather than fighting in Afghan villages.
"We hope Mullah Mohammad Omar Akhund joins the peace process, gives up fratricide, gives up bombings and blasts, stops causing casualties to Afghanistan's children, women and men," he said, referring to the leader of the Taliban.
Last week, Karzai announced that he had set up a council to pursue peace talks with the Taliban, who have been battling to regain control of Afghanistan since they were ousted from power by the US-led invasion almost nine years ago.
Karzai is expected to announce the membership line-up of the council after Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan.
'High Peace Council'
The formation of the "High Peace Council" is considered one of the most significant steps Karzai has taken in his oft-stated efforts to open a dialogue with the Taliban leadership.
Karzai's plan to create the council was approved in June at a "peace jirga" in Kabul attended by community, tribal, religious and political leaders from across the country. The council, meant to be a negotiating body, is to be made up of around 50 representatives of a broad section of Afghan society.
Officials have said it would include former members of the Taliban and Hizb-i-Islami, a small anti-government group led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former prime minister.
Hizb-i-Islami is currently in a tenuous alliance with the Taliban, although both sides remain suspicious of each other.
Hekmatyar's power has waned over the years and he commands far fewer fighters than the Taliban. The group, however, is active across part of Afghanistan's northern and eastern provinces.
The Taliban have repeatedly rejected peace efforts, labelling Karzai's government a puppet of the United States and saying they will not talk peace until all foreign forces have left the country.