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Afghan insurgents hold Maldives conference

  |   May 20, 2010 at 11:24 AM
MALE, Maldives, May 20 (UPI) -- Delegates from Afghan insurgent groups arrived Thursday in the Maldives to take part in a conference to tackle the crisis in their country, leaders said.

Jarir Hekmatyar, the son-in-law of Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, organized the meeting of 45 delegates from insurgent groups, including the Taliban, Afghan government officials and political leaders.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar leads the Hezb-i-Islami militant faction in Afghanistan. A Hezb-i-Islami delegation met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in March to present a 15-point peace plan that included deadlines for the departure of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

The Hezb-i-Islami leader in February called for international forces to leave within 18 months in order to talk.

Western officials and the Afghan government have no official role in the Maldives talks as delegates are looking for Afghan solutions to Afghan problems, al-Jazeera reports.

Karzai, who unveiled a Taliban reconciliation and reintegration plan to U.S. officials last week, is apparently unhappy about the Maldives talks. Observers from the Karzai government, however, are present at the talks.

Karzai's plan includes a deal to invite low- and mid-level Taliban into the political process if they pledged to sever ties with al-Qaida. Taliban leaders, however, said they would not enter into talks while Western forces were in the country.

Al-Jazeera adds that a similar insurgent meeting between Taliban officials took place in January to discuss engagement in the political process.

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