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Pakistan urges US, UK to talk to Taliban

Pakistan is trying to persuade the US and Britain to talk to the Taliban as the two countries review their strategy in Afghanistan.

india Updated: Dec 01, 2006 16:14 IST

Pakistan is trying to persuade the US and Britain to talk to the Taliban as the two countries review their strategy in Afghanistan, partly thanks to the domestic opposition to the five-year campaign.

A group of Pakistani senators told a British delegation on Thursday that the Taliban would have to be brought into talks if NATO were to succeed in bringing stability to Afghanistan.

"We do feel the situation in Afghanistan has, of late, deteriorated, in part because of mistakes made by policy-makers in Washington and in London," said Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairman of the Pakistani Senate's foreign affairs committee and secretary general of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Qaid).

"There has to be negotiations, a dialogue with all elements of Afghan society - ethnic or political - including members of the resistance," The Daily Times quoted him as saying.

There is also a concerted effort to disabuse the Western mind of a complicity between the Taliban and the Pakistani tribals, known for their sympathy for the extremist group and foreign Islamists.

The Taliban were ousted from Kabul five years back but are now reportedly in the process of resurgence.

The tribals in Pakistan "are very patriotic", Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf told the seven-member Foreign Affairs Committee of the British House of Commons.

His government, however, has not been able to convince the West of the pact it signed in September with the local tribals that allows them to keep the Taliban and foreign mercenaries as "guests", as long as they are peaceful and do not cross the border with Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office denied a report in British newspaper that Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri said that the Taliban were "winning the war in Afghanistan and NATO member states should not send more troops to Afghanistan".

Kasuri had only repeated what Pakistan had stressed all along - the need for a comprehensive strategy in Afghanistan.

He emphasised that a military approach alone would not resolve the problem in Afghanistan, a foreign office statement said.

Kasuri had urged the international community to encourage reconciliation and undertake an extensive reconstruction programme in Afghanistan, the statement added.

On his part, Musharraf told the British delegation: "There exists a need to adopt an elaborate strategy to curb the menace of terrorism.

Pakistan is engaged in the war against terror not only in the national interest but also for the sake of peace and stability in the world. It will continue its cooperation with the international community in this respect."

First Published: Dec 01, 2006 16:14 IST