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Karzai says assembly will decide Afghan peace strategy
by Staff Writers
Kabul (AFP) Oct 3, 2011

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Monday he would let a traditional assembly, or loya jirga, decide the country's peace strategy after the assassination of peace broker Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Karzai's comments came in a televised speech to the nation which did little to clear up confusion over his plans for rebuilding the peace process following Rabbani's killing by a turban bomber who was believed to be a Taliban envoy.

The president has faced conflicting calls from supporters in recent days, some of whom have urged him to drop talks with the Taliban entirely and others saying they must continue.

Although Karzai criticised Pakistan for playing a "double game" on terrorism in Afghanistan, he also stressed that negotiations should go through Islamabad in order to get to the Taliban.

"In a traditional loya jirga which will be held soon, the representatives of Afghanistan will be asked (about the situation) and we will do according to their wishes," Karzai said.

A loya jirga has already been planned to discuss a strategic partnership agreement under negotiation with the US, which will outline the two countries' relationship after foreign combat troops leave Afghanistan in 2014.

The peace discussions will be held at that event, Karzai said, adding it would take place "soon" but giving no further details.

There have only been two loya jirgas in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion in 2001. They bring together hundreds of tribal elders from around the country in order discuss issues of national significance.

Karzai also condemned Pakistan's "double game" on terrorism in Afghanistan. Many Afghans are suspicious of Pakistan's connections to the Taliban-led insurgency in their country.

"After all the destruction and misery, the double game towards Afghanistan and the use of terrorism as an excuse still continues," Karzai said.

"Pakistan has not supported our efforts to bring peace and security to Afghanistan, which is very unfortunate."

But despite this condemnation, Karzai nonetheless restated the view that negotiations had to go through Pakistan in order to get to the Taliban.

"Peace is the sacred desire of the people of Afghanistan. To achieve that we have to try more but we have to define first who should we talk to for peace, we have revise the ways of getting to peace," he said.

"We are in fact dealing with governments, not with forces linked to them, therefore, we have to talk with those who have authority and deal with them."

Karzai's address came after his spokesman said Sunday that he was reviewing his policy on peace in light of Rabbani's killing on September 20.

On Friday, he had spoken of his frustrations over the process at a meeting with Islamic clerics, saying that "the only solution" was for talks to be held with Pakistan, since insurgent rear bases are located there.

A statement released by the presidential palace Sunday said new evidence showed that Rabbani's killer was "a citizen of Pakistan".

Afghan officials have also charged Rabbani's murder was planned by the Afghan Taliban's leadership body, the Quetta Shura, in Pakistan. But the militant group has not claimed responsibility for the killing.

Even before Rabbani's killing, no substantive peace talks had taken place between the Afghan government and the Taliban, leaders of a 10-year insurgency which has led to 140,000 foreign troops being stationed in Afghanistan.

The Taliban have long rejected Karzai's calls for peace talks, saying they will not hold any discussions until all foreign troops leave.

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