'Pakistani Taliban ready for talks with new government'

Updated on Feb 24, 2008 08:07 PM IST
A Pakistani Taliban militant commander welcomed the victory of President Pervez Musharraf's opponents in elections and is ready for peace talks, says a rebel spokesman.
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AFP | By, Peshawar

A Pakistani Taliban militant commander welcomed the victory of President Pervez Musharraf's opponents in elections and is ready for peace talks, a rebel spokesman said on Sunday.

But Baitullah Mehsud, whom the government has accused of masterminding the slaying of former premier Benazir Bhutto in December, warned the victors of Monday's vote not to pursue Musharraf's "war on terror", the spokesman said.

"The Taliban movement welcomes the victory of anti-Musharraf political parties in the election and announces its willingness to enter into negotiations with them for bringing peace in the restive tribal area," Taliban spokesman Maulvi Omar said, quoting a statement by Mehsud.

Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, where Mehsud is based, has seen heavy fighting in recent months that has left hundreds of militants and dozens of troops dead.

Omar sporadically speaks to journalists by telephone saying he is a spokesman for Islamist Taliban groups operating in the region. There is no way to independently verify his claim.

"Taliban are ready for negotiations with the political parties as long as they do not re-impose war on them. If they do so, then Taliban will continue their activities against them," Omar told journalists in Peshawar by telephone, citing Mehsud's statement.

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