Image: Hamid Karzai
Massoud Hossaini  /  AFP - Getty Images
Afghan President Hamid Karzai gestures as he addresses a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday.
updated 9/29/2007 10:10:14 AM ET 2007-09-29T14:10:14

President Hamid Karzai offered Saturday to meet personally with Taliban leader Mullah Omar for peace talks and give the militants a high position in a government ministry as a way to end the rising insurgency in Afghanistan.

Reiterating a call for negotiations he has made with increasing frequency over the last several weeks, Karzai also said he was willing to meet with factional warlord leader and former Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

"If I find their address, there is no need for them to come to me, I'll personally go there and get in touch with them," Karzai said. "Esteemed Mullah, sir, and esteemed Hekmatyar, sir, why are you destroying the country?"

Karzai said he has contacts with Taliban militants through tribal elders but that there are no direct and open government communication channels with the fighters.

"If a group of Taliban or a number of Taliban come to me and say, 'President, we want a department in this or in that ministry or we want a position as deputy minister ... and we don't want to fight anymore ... If there will be a demand and a request like that to me, I will accept it because I want conflicts and fighting to end in Afghanistan," Karzai said.

"I wish there would be a demand as easy as this. I wish that they would want a position in the government. I will give them a position," he said.

Karzai: We still need foreign help
Karzai earlier this month renewed a call for talks with the Taliban, and a spokesman for the militant group initially said the fighters might be open to negotiations. But spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi later said foreign troops must first leave the country — a demand Karzai said Saturday he would not meet.

"It should be very clear until all our roads are paved, until we have good electricity and good water, and also until we have a better Afghan national army and national police, I don't want any foreigners to leave Afghanistan," he said.

He said he still wanted negotiations with Taliban militants of Afghan origin "for peace and security." He ruled out talks with al-Qaida and other foreign fighters.

NATO and the United Nations have said an increasing number of Taliban fighters are interested in laying down their arms. NATO's ambassador to Afghanistan, Daan Everts, said this month that NATO would look into the possibility of talks.

More than 4,500 Taliban fighters have laid down their arms and pledged to abide by the government's laws through a reconciliation process that is more than two years old.

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