Taliban spokesman rejects Karzai's offer of talks

A spokesman for Taliban militants says they will never negotiate with Afghan authorities until foreign troops leave Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's offer of peace talks was rejected by a Taliban spokesman,who on Sunday repeated a position he announced earlier this month, sayingthere would beno negotiations until foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan.

Karzai told reporters on Saturday that he wants to meet with Taliban leader Mullah Omar and iswilling to give the insurgent grouppositions in government. But Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi turned down theproposal.

"The Taliban will never negotiate with the Afghan government in the presence of foreign forces," Ahmadi told the Associated Press. "Even if Karzai gives up his presidency, it's not possible that Mullah Omar would agree to negotiations."

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maxime Bernier, said Sunday."We hope that negotiations will only be conducted with individuals and organizations that will respect human rights and renounce violence."

Karzai's offer came shortly after a suicide bomber disguised as an Afghan soldier killed 30 people in Kabul. The victims included 28 soldiers who were on a bus taking them to work.Two civiliansnear the bus explosion were also killed.

Karzai's office, meantime,said Sunday that there is talk among some Taliban fighters about laying down arms.

"They want to live in peace and have a comfortable life with their families," Karzai spokesman Humayun Hamidzada said."There is serious debate within their ranks, but this is a process that takes time."

About 50,000 foreign soldiers under NATO and U.S. command are stationed inAfghanistan.The international forces arepreparing to handsecurity responsibilities to the Afghans and are hoping the transfer will take place by2011.

In the last session of Parliament, Canada'sdefence minister, Gordon O'Connor,said the military is committed to keepingsoldiers in Afghanistan until the end ofFebruary 2009.

Earlier this month, the new defence minister, Peter MacKay, saidCanada has made it clear to its NATO allies that they cannot count on Canadiantroops, totallingmore than 2,000 in southern Afghanistan, to continue the combat missionafter that. MacKay said he'll have a final decision before a NATO meeting in Romania next April.

With files from the Associated Press