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SEARCH FOR ELUSIVE PEACE : Karzai holds talks on Taliban in Doha

SEARCH FOR ELUSIVE PEACE : Karzai holds talks  on Taliban in Doha
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Meets Emir of Qatar during visit on opening Taliban office Doha (AFP): Afghan President Hamid Karzai held talks on Sunday with the Emir of...

Meets Emir of Qatar during visit on opening Taliban office ka2 Doha (AFP): Afghan President Hamid Karzai held talks on Sunday with the Emir of Qatar during a visit to discuss opening a Taliban office in the Gulf state, as a prelude to possible peace negotiations with the militants. Karzai discussed "issues of mutual interest" with Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, state news agency QNA said, without giving details of the meeting in Doha city. The Afghan President previously opposed a Taliban office in Qatar since he feared that his government would be frozen out of any future peace deal involving the Islamic extremists and the United States. The militants refuse to have direct contact with Karzai, saying he is a puppet of the United States, which supported his rise to power after the military operation to oust the Taliban from Kabul in 2001. But with US-led NATO combat troops due to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, Karzai recently backed the proposed office in Doha and his office said he would raise the plan on Sunday. Any future peace talks still face numerous hurdles before they begin, including confusion over who would represent the Taliban and Karzai's insistence that his appointees should be at the centre of negotiations. "We will discuss the peace process, of course, and the opening of an office for the Taliban in Qatar," presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi told AFP before Karzai left Kabul on Saturday. "If we want to have talks to bring peace to Afghanistan, the main side must be the Afghan government's representatives -- the High Peace Council, which has members from all the country's ethnic and political backgrounds," Faizi added. Negotiating with the hardline Taliban regime that harboured al-Qaeda before the 9/11 attacks was for many years anathema to countries in the UN-backed coalition against the militants. But the search for a political settlement became a priority as the insurgency raged on, with Taliban leaders able to fuel violence from safe havens across the border in Pakistan.
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