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Taleban reject Karzai peace plan

Taleban militants
The president wants to reach out to moderate Taleban elements

Taleban militants in Afghanistan have rejected an offer of peace talks from Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

They have said that there can be no negotiations until foreign troops leave Afghanistan.

There has also been a sceptical reaction from the US over the possibility of negotiations.

On Sunday President Karzai offered to provide security for the Taleban's reclusive leader, Mullah Omar, if he agrees to peace talks.

Mr Karzai made the offer despite the multi-million dollar bounty offered for the militant leader's capture by the United States.

He said that if the US and other Western countries disagreed, they could either leave the country or remove him.

'No point'

A spokesman for the Taleban, Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, told the BBC that there was no question of accepting President Karzai's offer.

RISE AND FALL OF TALEBAN
Emerged in Afghanistan in 1994
Mainly supported by ethnic Pashtuns
Toppled after US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001
Fugitive leader Mullah Omar wanted, whereabouts unknown

"The real power in Afghanistan does not rest with Karzai but with others so there's no point talking to him," Mr Ahmadi said.

He said a senior commander, Mullah Brother, who is a close aide of Taleban leader Mullah Omar, had decided that they would not take part in peace talks with the government until all foreign forces left Afghanistan.

The Afghan president has long advocated moves to reach out to the Taleban or at least moderate elements within the group, as part of an eventual political settlement.

It is also an approach that is being voiced by others, including some in the West.

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Kabul says that the president's offer of safe passage to Mullah Omar - who eluded capture in 2001 - has nevertheless startled many because he continues to be one of the most wanted men in the US.

Washington has responded cautiously, saying that they would continue to support President Karzai but they did not believe that the Taleban was ready to renounce violence.

"We're not seeing any indication from Mullah Omar that he is ready to break all ties to al-Qaeda and support the Afghan government and constitution," said Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesman.

"No one has heard from Mullah Omar in some time, and given attacks like last week's when some Taleban threw acid on girls going to school, many don't seem to show a willingness to negotiate.

"While we're hopeful that reconcilable Taleban will lay down their arms and choose to play a productive part in Afghan society... sadly, so far, they continue to attack innocent civilians and coalition forces on a regular basis," he said.



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