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THE STANS
Pakistan's Sharif says 'sincere' on Taliban talks
by Staff Writers
Peshawar, Pakistan (AFP) Oct 10, 2013


Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Thursday said his government was sincere about holding peace talks with the Taliban, after rebel chief Hakimullah Mehsud complained no serious steps had been taken to open a dialogue.

Speaking after a security meeting in the troubled northwestern city of Peshawar, Sharif said progress was being made on the issue of opening negotiations.

His statement came a day after the broadcast of a BBC interview in which Mehsud said he was ready to sit down for talks but the government had "not taken any serious steps".

"The government is sincere about solving the issue of terrorism through talks with Taliban," Sharif told the meeting in Peshawar.

"We are seriously implementing the decision jointly taken by the All Parties' Conference (APC) for dialogue with Taliban."

The main Pakistani political parties last month backed a government proposal to seek negotiations with the militants, who have been waging a bloody insurgency against the state since 2007.

But the umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) faction, a loose coalition of militant groups led by Mehsud since 2009, responded with a list of preconditions.

These included a government ceasefire and the withdrawal of troops from the tribal areas along the Afghan border where the militants have hideouts.

Ongoing violence, including a recent wave of bombings in the northwestern city of Peshawar that killed more than 140 people within a week, has prompted many to question the proposed negotiations.

Mehsud, who has a $5 million US government bounty on his head, told the BBC he would continue to target the United States and its allies, and that talks were dependent on an end to US drone strikes.

The TTP is blamed for killing thousands of people in its war against the Pakistani state in recent years.

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