Karzai seeks Saudi role for Afghan 'reconciliation' / PHOTO

Karzai said he would hold a council of elders in what could could be a first step towards bringing "disenchanted" Taliban insurgents.

Karzai seeks Saudi role for Afghan 'reconciliation' / PHOTO

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday he would hold a council of elders in what could could be a first step towards bringing "disenchanted" Taliban insurgents into a political settlement of the conflict.

A government spokesman the Taliban would be asked to take part in the peace council, or loya jirga, expected to be held early this year.


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"We wish them to come," spokesman Hamid Elmi told Reuters at a 60-nation conference in London on Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai told the conference his government would set up a national council for peace, reconciliation and reintegration followed by a peace jirga.

We must reach out to all of our countrymen, especially our "disenchanted brothers", who are not part of al Qaeda, or other terrorist networks, who accept the Afghan constitution," Karzai said."

Karzai also said he wanted Saudi Arabia to play a "prominent role" in bringing peace.


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Karzai called on Saudi Arabia, which has hosted talks between Afghan government and Taliban representatives in the past, to help bring peace to Afghanistan.

"We hope His Majesty (Saudi) King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz will kindly play a prominent role to guide and assist the peace process," he said.

He also said that Afghanistan needed the support of its neighbours, particularly Pakistan.

"15 years"

Afghanistan will need support from the West for up to 15 years, Karzai also had said, ahead of a major international conference on his strife-torn country in London.

"With regard to training and equipping the Afghan security forces, five to 10 years will be enough," Karzai said in an interview with BBC radio.


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"With regard to sustaining them until Afghanistan is financially able to provide for our forces, the time will be extended to 10 to 15 years."

Afghanistan will seek to drum up support for its plan to buy off Taliban fighters at a meeting Thursday with its allies, who are expected to press Kabul to move more quickly to take over security.

"Divide them"

Western governments say they have no plans to hold direct peace talks with Taliban leaders themselves as they send in more troops and development aid to Afghanistan.


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But through the influx of 30,000 extra U.S. troops, along with money to buy off Taliban foot soldiers, they are hoping to weaken the insurgency enough.

Karzai has been lobbying for contributions to a 500-million-dollar reintegration programme that will offer Taliban jobs and security guarantees if they stop fighting.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the conference as the invasion by the United States enters its ninth year.

"2009 was a difficult year in Afghanistan - and there will be more tough times ahead," Brown told delegates.


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"By the middle of next year, we have to turn the tide in the fight against the insurgency," British leader Brown said.

"To weaken the Taliban, you divide them and you offer those people who are prepared to renounce violence... a way out. And that is something that we will do and something that president Karzai wants to do," Brown said.

"To those insurgents who refuse to acept the conditions for reintegration we have no choice but to pursue them militarily," Brown said.

There are around 110,000 international soldiers occupying Afghanistan; the United States said it will send 30,000 more troops this year, ahead of plans to drawdown from 2011, and has asked its allies for 10,000 extra soldiers.

"Bribing Taliban"

Meanwhile, three days of activity against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began with a public meeting in central London Wednesday.

Andrew Murray, chair of the Stop the War Coalition (StWC), described the Afghan conference as an "admission of failure" of the war and occupation of the country.

Andrew said that protesters will defy any police ban and demonstrate outside both the conference and the Iraq inquiry.


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Kate Hudson, chair of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, spoke from the platform. She said, "Whatever these goverments agree, they will be at odds with the populations of their countries.

Tony Benn, president of the StWC, told the meeting, "The war in Afghanistan has cost billions. The latest plan is to bribe the Taliban to comply with the occupation – which will make the situation ever more bitter."

British MP George Galloway said, "The life and blood of soldiers and Afghans is too precious for this war to continue."



Agencies

 

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