Page last updated at 21:35 GMT, Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Afghanistan: Brown supports offer of Taliban talks

Gordon Brown and Hamid Karzai at Downing Street
Mr Brown and Mr Karzai took questions from a student audience

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has offered his support to Afghanistan's plan to talk to moderate Taliban.

He spoke at a debate organised by the BBC with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, ahead of a conference on Afghanistan.

Both leaders said the offer of talks was only to non-extremist Taliban who could renounce violence.

President Karzai defended the plan against criticism that it could undermine freedoms won by the Afghan people.

Responding to questions from Afghan and British students at the debate, Mr Brown said: "To weaken the Taliban you divide them and offer those people who are prepared to renounce violence and join the democratic process a way out."

There still will be a lot more to accomplish on our own and with the international community
Hamid Karzai
Afghan President

He added: "It's detaching the people who are violently committed to the ideology that we are talking about here - if you can detach the others and persuade them that they should be part of the democratic process, that they should renounce violence and that there is a future for them only if they join the democratic process."

Mr Karzai defended his government's plan to offer the Taliban talks, after a question from an Afghan student.

"We will continue to seek peace in Afghanistan, using all the means that are available to us.

"The offer of talks with the Taliban goes to those who are not part of al-Qaeda, or other terrorist networks, who have accepted the Afghan constitution, who will accept the Afghan constitution, who will return to a normal peaceful life in Afghanistan in accordance with the Afghan constitution, benefiting from it as all other Afghan citizens do."

Security push

Hamid Karzai: "On the question of warlords, I think you are a bit late in the day talking about it"

President Karzai admitted that corruption was a big concern and said he would announce plans for tougher action at the London conference on Thursday.

Mr Brown stressed that the plans to train another 100,000 Afghan police and army would help the security situation.

He defended keeping British troops in Afghanistan, saying they were needed to build the capacity of Afghanistan's own security forces.

Mr Karzai said his goal of having Afghan forces in charge of security within five years did not mean that the country would not need further support.

"There still will be the need for international forces; there still will be the need for financial support of Afghanistan; there still will be a lot more to accomplish on our own and with the international community."

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