Taliban ridicule 'puppet' Karzai, snub olive branch | world | Hindustan Times
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Taliban ridicule 'puppet' Karzai, snub olive branch

world Updated: Nov 03, 2009 19:30 IST
Hamid Karzai

The Taliban on Tuesday rejected an olive branch extended by Hamid Karzai, ridiculing the Afghan president as a "puppet" of the West after he was handed another five years in power.

In his first public appearance since being declared president for a second term, Karzai reached out to the Islamist militia who has waged an increasingly virulent insurgency since being toppled from power in 2001.

"We call on our Taliban brothers to come home and embrace their land," Karzai told a news conference a day after organisers declared him the winner of the country's second presidential election.

But the Taliban slapped down his offer. They accused Karzai of being in hock to Western powers who helped sweep him to power eight years ago and are still struggling to defeat the movement on the battlefield.

The president has repeatedly appealed to the Taliban, offering an amnesty to its fugitive leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, but has made little headway in dividing the shadowy movement's ranks.

"This is not the first time Karzai has made such statements," Yousuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.

"We do not attach any value to these offers of peace by Karzai as we know they are empty words.

"He is a puppet and his government is a puppet government. He is in no position to make such decisions or stand by them."

In a statement issued in their spiritual capital Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban said the 10-week election saga, which ended with organisers scrapping a scheduled run-off, showed the West dictated policy.

"The cancellation of the second round of the election showed that decisions on Afghanistan are made in Washington and London, while the announcements are made in Kabul," the Taliban statement said.

"What is astonishing is two weeks ago they were arguing that the puppet president Hamid Karzai was involved in electoral fraud... but now he is elected as president based on those same fraudulent votes, Washington and London immediately send their congratulations."

The Taliban had called for a boycott of the electoral process and carried out scores of attacks in the build-up to the first round and on Election Day.

It had also threatened to intensify attacks ahead of the run-off, carrying out a deadly attack on a guesthouse for UN workers in Kabul last week.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who congratulated Karzai, said the mission would not be forced out of Afghanistan by violence, after Taliban gunmen stormed into a UN-approved guest house killing at least five expatriate UN staff.

"We will not be deterred, cannot be deterred and must not be deterred and the work of the United Nations will continue," he said on a visit to Kabul.

But the Taliban said Karzai could not be considered legitimate as president without winning over 50 percent of votes in the first round.

"How and based on what principles will the United Nations consider this a legal administration now that the so-called 'war on terror' and 'democracy' have been shown to be empty slogans?" said the militia.