Karzai offers to talk with Taliban

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has offered to meet personally with Taliban leader Mullah Omar and another top insurgent for peace talks.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has offered to meet personally with Taliban leader Mullah Omar and another top insurgent, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, for peace talks.

Karzai told reporters on Saturday he would also allocate some government posts to the Taliban if Omar and Hekmatyar, a former prime minister and factional warlord leader, enter negotiations.

"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.

However, Karzai rejected a long-standing Taliban demand that he order foreign troops out of Afghanistan before talks begin.

"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?"

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has said it does not support negotiations with Taliban fighters, labelling them terrorists, though the United Nations and NATO have said an increasing number of Taliban are interested in laying down their arms.

Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay said he welcomes talks with anyone willing to stopthe killing and see Afghanistan move toward self sufficiency.

"Much of what he said is not new. President Karzai has said there are certain conditions that must apply: There must be renouncing of the violence; there must be an acceptance that NATO forces are not going to leave the country; that these pre-conditions that the Taliban have laid out in the past will not be part of the occasion."

Incentive to end struggle

Chris Alexander, Canada's former ambassador to Afghanistan, said military successesin the past year over the Taliban and the fact they are less welcome on bothsides of the Afghanistan/Pakistan borderhas providedan incentive for some to think twice before they continue the struggle.

"A political door has to be open to them," Alexander told CBC News. "It’s not necessarily about Mullah Omar himself. It's about members of the movement, members of the groups that have been engaged in the insurgency who may be willing to give up the fight."

Karzai made his offer hours after a Taliban suicide bomber wearing an Afghan army uniform set off a huge explosion while trying to board a military bus in the capital, Kabul.

The blast killed 30 people, most of them soldiers, officials said. Other victims included day labourers looking for work in the residential area.

Video footage showed the bus split in two, with part of the wreckage lying in a nearby park.

There have been more than 100 suicide attacks in Afghanistan this year, most blamed on the Taliban.

With files from the Associated Press