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Hamid Karzai to urge UN to ease Taliban sanctions

Hamid Karzai, Abdullah Gul, Asif Ali Zardari in Istanbul, 25 Jan
Turkey is mediating talks between the Afghan and Pakistani leaders

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he will propose lifting UN sanctions against some Taliban leaders at a summit in London later this week.

He said he believed Western allies backed his reconciliation plans for Taliban members who renounce al-Qaeda.

Mr Karzai was speaking after talks with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in the Turkish city of Istanbul.

Earlier, Nato's top commander in Afghanistan also expressed hope for a negotiated peace with the Taliban.

"As a soldier, my personal feeling is that there's been enough fighting," US General Stanley McChrystal told the UK's Financial Times newspaper.

"I believe that a political solution to all conflicts is the inevitable outcome. And it's the right outcome," he added.

UN blacklist

After the talks in Istanbul, President Karzai said: "I will be making a statement at the conference in London to the effect of removing Taliban names from the UN sanctions list."

Afghan President Karzai told the BBC last week of his desire for reconciliation

He said there was "more willingness" to consider the plan, despite earlier resistance by some UN members.

The idea of negotiating with the Taliban is not new, but if it gets the support of countries attending a series of meetings this week in Istanbul and London, it could become the basis of the strategy to end the insurgency in Afghanistan following the US military surge there, says the BBC's Jonathan Head in Istanbul.

President Karzai recently told the BBC that he planned to introduce a scheme to attract Taliban fighters back to normal life by offering money and jobs.

He said he would offer to pay and resettle Taliban fighters to come over to his side.

Mr Karzai said he hoped to win backing for his plan from the US and UK at the London conference.

Taliban split

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said the international community would probably endorse the plan at the London conference, telling reporters on Monday that it is "right to believe that over the long-term we can split the Taliban".

Kai Eide, the top UN representative to Afghanistan, has also backed the move as a prelude to direct peace talks with Taliban members.

"If you want relevant results, then you have to talk to the relevant person in authority," Mr Eide said in an interview with the New York Times. "I think the time has come to do it."

The US opposes ending sanctions on hard-line leaders like Mullah Omar, but has talked about accepting elements of the Taliban as part of a final peace deal.

Mr Karzai was in Istanbul for the fourth round of Turkish-mediated talks with the Pakistani president since 2007 to discuss tackling the Taliban-led insurgency in their countries.

Representatives from five other countries bordering Afghanistan will now join the talks in Istanbul - their opportunity to exchange regional views on how best to stabilise the country before the bigger London summit starts on Thursday.



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