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Taliban not at Kabul talks, leaders say

March 23, 2010 at 10:26 AM

KABUL, Afghanistan, March 23 (UPI) -- A Taliban spokesman in Afghanistan said its members wouldn't have talks with the government in Afghanistan while foreign troops were present in the country.

Representatives with the militant group Hezb-i-Islami met Monday in Kabul for a reconciliation conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. A spokesman for Karzai said the government was "looking at" a peace plan offered by the group.

Karzai at a January conference for his country in London said he would welcome moderate insurgent groups into the political landscape as part of a reconciliation process.

Taliban leaders said they wouldn't have peace talks with the Karzai government until foreign troops left Afghanistan, Pakistani newspaper The National reports.

Hezb-i-Islami is led by warlord and former Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Hekmatyar in February offered his own initiative that called for international forces to leave within 18 months in order to talk.

In addition, Hekmatyar called for an interim government to take control of the government in Kabul while tribal elders discuss drafting a new constitution for Afghanistan. Hekmatyar would then disarm.

Washington includes Hekmatyar on its official terrorism list.

Karzai said in January he would convene a major "peace jirga" in April to examine ways to entice moderate insurgents into the political discussion.

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