Karzai olive branch for Taliban

2010-09-21 15:39

Kabul – Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday marked the UN's International Peace Day with a renewed call to Taliban-led insurgents to lay down their arms and reconcile with his administration.

"I call on those who have picked up arms against Afghanistan and peace in this country, to take advantage of Peace Day and join peace talks through the High Council for Peace and stop fratricide," Karzai said in a statement.

Karzai earlier this month established a High Council for Peace tasked with efforts to cut a peace deal with the Taliban and other Islamist rebels fighting his US-backed government.

Karzai has repeatedly tried to open a dialogue with Taliban leaders aimed at speeding an end to the war heading towards its 10th year.

But the Taliban, the main militant group fighting to topple Karzai's government, have repeatedly spurned such moves, saying they will not talk peace until all foreign forces have left the country.

The US and Nato have 150 000 troops in Afghanistan fighting the insurgency, most of them in Taliban hotspots of Helmand and Kandahar provinces in the south.