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Page last updated at 11:03 GMT, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 12:03 UK

Karzai pleas for Saudi peace role

Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province on 17 July 2008
Mr Karzai says that he is 'working for peace'

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said that he has made repeated efforts over the last two years to engage Saudi Arabia in peace talks with the Taleban.

The president said there had not yet been any direct negotiations, only requests for help.

He said that Afghan officials had travelled to Saudi Arabia and to Pakistan to kick-start the process.

The comments came during the president's traditional message to the Afghan people during the Eid holiday.

Overthrown

"Since two years I have been sending letters and messages to the Saudi Arabian king and requested him, as a world Muslim leader, to help us bring peace in Afghanistan," President Karzai told a news conference.

Taleban fighters
Mr Karzai says he wants to talk to moderate Taleban leaders

"The preparation for negotiations is going on, on a daily basis. Our envoys travelled many times to Saudi Arabia and to Pakistan, but the discussions have not started yet. We hope that it happens soon."

Saudi Arabia was one of the few countries to recognise the Taleban government when they ruled Afghanistan before being overthrown by US forces in 2001.

President Karzai has in the past urged Taleban fighters to lay down their weapons and return to their homes.

The BBC's Martin Patience in Kabul say that this is part of a reconciliation process supported by the Afghan government - as well as the US and UK - of reaching out to moderate leaders in the Taleban.

Our correspondent says that many Afghan and western officials believe that the insurgency cannot be defeated militarily and that a political accommodation must be reached, but there has been fierce disagreements between Western countries and the Afghan government as to how this process should proceed.

Mullah Mohammed Omar
Mullah Omar says he will give Western troops safe passage if they withdraw

President Karzai also says he has made a fresh appeal for the Taleban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, to join peace negotiations.

"A few days ago I called upon their leader, Mullah Omar, and said 'My brother, my dear, come back to your homeland, come and work for the peace and good of your people and stop killing your brothers'," he said.

Afghan and US officials believe Mullah Omar is hiding in Pakistan, but that has been denied by Islamabad.

He issued a statement on the internet on Tuesday offering international troops "safe passage out of Afghanistan" if they withdrew from the country.

Correspondents say that earlier attempts to negotiate with the Taleban have been beset by difficulties, especially when foreign powers have been involved.




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