Head of Pakistani Taliban says he is open to talks with government

Oct. 9, 2013 at 4:05 PM

ISLAMABAD, Oct. 9 (UPI) -- The chief of the Pakistani Taliban said he is open to talks with government officials but claims he has not yet been approached.

Hakimullah Meshud's comments, in a British Broadcasting Corp. interview conducted earlier this month, come after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's announcement he would open unconditional talks with the Taliban.

Mehsud loosely controls more than 30 militant groups in Pakistan's tribal area, the BBC said.

He said, "We believe in serious talks but the government has taken no steps to approach us. The government needs to sit with us, then we will present our conditions."

When asked about the failure of previous peace initiatives between Pakistan and the Taliban, Mehsud blamed the government.

"The government of Pakistan bombs innocent tribal people due to the pressure of America. Drone strikes conducted by Americans were [backed] by Pakistan. Then the Americans pressed Pakistan to start ground operations in these areas, and Pakistan complied, so the government is responsible for past failures," he said.

The FBI has a $5 million bounty on Meshud, considered responsible for the deaths of the thousands in Pakistan, the BBC noted. In the interview he denied recent bombings in public places.

"As for explosions which cause damage to the life and property of Muslims, we have denied any link in the past, we deny any link today," he said.

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