Taliban turns down Karzai's offer to talk: report

Taliban leaders have ruled out talks with President Hamid Karzai's government as long as foreign troops remain in Afghanistan, according to a statement attributed to the insurgents.

A fugitive Taliban leader has rejected an offer from Afghan President Hamid Karzai to negotiate an end to the violence in Afghanistan, according to a purported statementfrom the hardline militia on Saturday.

On Friday, Karzai said he wouldbe willing to hold talks with Mulla Mohammad Omar and his followers if they stop receiving support from foreign fighters and cut ties with al-Qaeda.

"They should first free themselves from foreign slavery and come to their own land and live in peace," Karzai said. "For the sake of peace in Afghanistan, we are ready to negotiate with them."

Karzai has also written to influential ethnic Pashtun politicians in Pakistan asking for their support to stem the growing Taliban insurgency.

The Afghan president says he believes the Taliban leader is hiding in Pakistan, but that country says Omar is still in Afghanistan.

The purported statement from the Taliban, sent by e-mail Saturday to the Associated Press by militant spokesman Muhammad Hanif, dismissed Karzai's latest offer of talks and called his administration a "puppet government."

Fighting in Afghanistan has escalated in the past year with Taliban fighters using more road-side bombs and suicide bombers.

In the latest violence, 14 people, mostly elderly people and children, were killed Friday when the minibus they were travelling in was struck by a bomb in the southern Uruzgan province, a provincial government official said.

Forty-two Canadian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan and more than 200 have been badly wounded.

Karzai, who was in Kabul on Saturday meeting with NATO officials, has been under mounting pressure over civilian deaths and has repeatedly urged foreign forces to exercise more caution.

He said on Friday that the Afghan people are "hurt and saddened" by the deaths of a number of civilians in a NATO air raid.

NATO has confirmed that at least 12 civilians were killed in an air strike targeting Taliban militants on Tuesday.But the government said initial investigations suggested 25 civilians died in the raid in the Panjwaii district of southern Afghanistan, a region that has seen heavy fighting between NATO forces and the Taliban since May.

With files from the Associated Press