Page last updated at 13:57 GMT, Tuesday, 28 October 2008

New attempt to seek Taleban peace

Delegates at the mini-jirga in Islamabad
Delegates agreed that the door should be opened for peace talks

Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to make contact with militant groups - including the Taleban - to try to end the violence in their border region.

The decision was made after two days of talks in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad.

The joint Pakistan-Afghanistan meeting, known as a mini-jirga, or council, was convened to discuss the growing problems of the border areas.

However a spokesman for the Taleban swiftly rejected the call, describing it as "worthless".

"This jirga was founded by the Americans. It has no power, no respect," Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taleban spokesman, told the Reuters news agency by satellite telephone from an undisclosed location.

"We will not hold any dialogue while foreign troops commanded by the Americans are in our country," he said.

Pakistani and Afghan officials said efforts would be made to make contact with a range of militant groups.

The mini-jirga is described as a smaller version of a jirga - or council - which met in 2007 in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

'Elusive peace'

"We agreed that contacts should be established with the opposition in both countries, joint contacts through the jirgagai [mini-tribal council]," said Abdullah Abdullah, the leader of the Afghan delegation at the talks.

Pakistani Army soldiers patrol on their tanks during a military operation against Islamic militants in Darra Adam Khel on September 29, 2008.
Pakistani troops are deployed against militants in tribal areas

Mr Abdullah said that the door for negotiations was now wide open for opposition forces in Afghanistan.

Owais Ghani, the leader of the Pakistani side, said that the offer included "all those who are involved in this conflict situation". He said "influential people from both countries" would move to contact them.

There has been little prospect of peace along the border in recent years, with militants frequently making raids from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

But a joint statement issued after the talks also said that terrorism was a global threat and both countries were its victims.

The statement said that each would continue to deny providing a sanctuary to terrorists and that the council would meet in three months time to evaluate the progress on issues decided.

It said there was an "urgent and imperative need for dialogue and negotiations with the opposition groups in both countries with a view to finding a peaceful settlement of the ongoing conflict, upholding the supremacy of the constitutions of both countries".

The BBC's Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad says that solutions are needed for a series of outstanding issues.

We will talk to them, they will listen to us and we will come to some sort of solution. Without dialogue we cannot have any sort of conclusion
Pakistan delegation leader Owais Ghani

Missiles thought to be fired by US forces based in Afghanistan side have landed in Pakistani border regions and led to casualties.

Away from the border, the Pakistani Taleban are also waging an internal insurgency.

Before the talks began both sides expressed the hope that they would advance the slow process of trying to make peace through dialogue.

The 25 Pakistani and Afghan delegates were led by senior government figures, not by people from the most troubled areas.

The Taleban in Afghanistan have stressed that they are not interested in dialogue unless foreign troops leave the country.

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