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Central & South Asia
Karzai says US in talks with Taliban
Afghan president's confirmation comes as Taliban launches deadly attacks in centre of capital, Kabul.
Last Modified: 18 Jun 2011 16:31

The president of Afghanistan has said his government and the US are negotiating with Taliban fighters to bring peace to the country.

While officials at the US embassy in Kabul could not be immediately reached for comment, Hamid Karzai's remarks were the first official confirmation of US involvement in the negotiations.

"Peace talks have started with [the Taliban] already and it is going well," Karzai said on Saturday in Kabul.

"Foreign militaries, especially the United States of America, are going ahead with these negotiations.''

Diplomats have already said there have been months of preliminary talks between the two sides, and Karzai, who is a strong advocate of peace talks, has long said Afghans are in contact with anti-government groups.

Karzai's disclosure came a day after the UN Security Council split the UN sanctions list for Taliban and al-Qaeda figures into two, which envoys said could help induce the Taliban into talks on a peace deal in Afghanistan.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, earlier this year called on Taliban members to break ranks with al-Qaeda, renounce violence and accept the constitution so they can be reconciled to society.

Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith, in Afghanistan's Helmand province, said [Barack] Obama was already on record saying that to effect a political solution it was necessary to talk to the Taliban.

"It's recognition that after ten years of war they [the US] haven't succeeded in getting rid of the Taliban, in fact they are still very influential in many parts of the country," he said.

"They are agreeing to have talks with an organisation that has just claimed responsibility for yet another suicide attack in Kabul, it's a very difficult choice that had to be made."

Multiple attacks

Shortly after Karzai's remarks on Saturday, gunfire was heard in the centre of Kabul, a witness told Reuters news agency, and an Afghan television station reported that a police station had been attacked.

Mohammad Zahir, head of crime investigation for Kabul police, told Tolo TV that two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside a police station in the city's police district one.

Police said the attackers were wearing Afghan army uniforms and that the three gunmen died in the attack.

The Afghan interior ministry later said in a statement that three police officers, one intelligence agent and five civilians were also killed in Saturday's assault.

Elsewhere, fighters attacked three convoys ferrying fuel and supplies to NATO troops stationed, killing nine Afghan security guards and torching at least 15 fuel tankers.

Two of the attacks on the supply convoys took place in eastern Ghazni province, where two roadside bombs killed four Afghan security guards, Mohammed Hussain, the provincial police chief, said.

Fighters also ambushed a NATO fuel convoy late on Friday along the border between Herat and Farah provinces in the west, killing five Afghan guards.

Substantial reduction

The US is on the verge of announcing a substantial reduction of troops from Afghanistan despite the continued attacks in the country.

Western officials in Kabul stress that attempts to set up contacts with the Taliban are at a very early stage and that efforts are still being made to achieve a communication channel with the Taliban's leadership.

Karzai last year set up the peace council featuring senior Afghan figures in a bid to pursue talks with the Taliban in return for them laying down their arms and accepting the constitution.

The Afghan government and the international community have set a number of pre-conditions for talks including that the Taliban accept the Afghan constitution, respect the values of democracy, renounce violence and break ties with their al-Qaeda backers.

These pre-conditions have been rejected in public by the Taliban who are leading a bloody insurgency against foreign troops and Afghan forces.

As Afghan forces prepared to assume security control from NATO-led forces, Iran's defence minister made a landmark visit to Kabul on Saturday in a bid to bolster ties between the two countries.

Ahmad Vahidi met his Afghan counterpart Abdul Rahim Wardak on the first visit by an Iranian defence minister in 92 years, the Iranian state broadcaster IRIB reported.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran considers Afghanistan's security as its own security, has put a lot of effort towards stability in Afghanistan and will continue to help in this regard," IRIB quoted Vahidi as saying.

"On this trip I hope to witness the expansion of defence ties between the two countries," Vahidi said.

Wardak's ministry said the two discussed challenges including terrorism, drugs and arms smuggling, crime and border security during their meeting.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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