/ 7 September 2009

Karzai hopes to hold talks with Taliban if re-elected

Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai hopes to hold peace talks with the Taliban within 100 days if he is re-elected, he told the French daily Le Figaro in an interview published on Monday.

But Karzai insisted he would not sit down with any faction that refuses to cut its links with al-Qaeda or fails to respect the Afghan constitution.

He implicitly confirmed Saudi Arabia is involved in trying to broker talks between his government and the Islamist militia, who were driven from power in 2001 and are now fighting an insurgency against Afghan and Nato forces.

Karzai also said he thought that United States President Barack Obama was more ready than his predecessor George Bush to countenance talks with the Taliban in order to find a way out of the eight-year-old conflict.

Asked whether he was ready to talk to the Taliban, Karzai replied: ”It’s something that I’ll do in these first 100 days. I’ve noticed a change of attitude on the part of President Obama, compared to his predecessor.

”But be careful — and it’s something that Saudi Arabia should remember — there’s no question of a dialogue with Taliban who don’t renounce their links with al-Qaeda or who refuse to recognise the Afghan Constitution.”

Le Figaro conducted the interview in Kabul and Karzai’s remarks were published in French.

Official results of the first round in Afghanistan’s presidential election are due to be released on September 17, but partial results based on voting in three-quarters of polling stations have him in the lead on 48,6%.

Karzai needs more than 50% to avoid a second round run-off against his main rival,former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, who has complained of widespread vote-rigging in last month’s first round. — Sapa-AFP