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Talks with Taliban at 'nascent' stage: Karzai

world Updated: Nov 14, 2010 16:58 IST

PTI
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Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has had "one or two" meetings with "very high" Taliban leadership on a peace deal, says both sides are keen to "end the national suffering."

Asked to comment on the secret negotiations with Taliban, Karzai said that he met with Taliban leaders in "one or two" meetings about three months ago.

However, he described these meetings as "nascent."

The talks were in a nascent stage and amounted to little more than "the exchange of desires for peace," Karzai told Washington Post.

The Afghan president said that he would not name the Taliban leaders he has met but described them as "very high" level, and said that he believed that group's chief Mullah Mohammad Omar has been informed of the discussions.

"They feel the same way as we do here. That too many people are suffering for no reason. Their own families are suffering," he said, adding and it is this "national suffering they'd like to address with us."

Karzai has made reconciliation a priority and recently formed a 70-member peace council to find a political solution to the nearly-decade-long war.

Afghan officials and the NATO military officers in Afghanistan have confirmed that contacts are being made with top insurgent leaders, but say no formal peace talks are yet underway.

Meanwhile, an overwhelming 80% of Afghans support Karzai government's efforts to negotiate peace with Taliban, according to a poll released this week in Kabul.

83% of respondents said they back efforts to secure the country through negotiation with militant groups, the survey conducted by the Asia Foundation found. The figure was up from 71% 2009.

The report also indicated that 55% of Afghan adults had no sympathy at all for the armed opposition groups — up from 36% 2009 —- and 26% had only a little sympathy.