Taliban reject Afghan president's peace talk offer

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CHAMAN, Pakistan, Sep 30 (Reuters) Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents today rejected President Hamid Karzai's offer of peace talks, citing the presence of foreign troops, a Taliban spokesman said.

Back from a trip to the United States, Karzai said yesterday he was ready to personally meet the Taliban's fugitive leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, chief of another insurgent group for peace talks.

But he excluded any preconditions such as the withdrawal of nearly 50,000 troops under the command of NATO and the US military, as demanded by the insurgents.

Karzai said US President George W Bush and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had both supported the idea of peace talks when he met them in the US this month.

Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf told Reuters from an undisclosed location that talks with Kabul were out of the question.

''Karzai government is a dummy government. It has no authority so why should we waste our time and effort,'' Yousuf said.

''Until American and NATO troops are out of Afghanistan, talks with Karzai government are not possible.'' Both Mullah Omar and Hekmatyar are wanted by the United States.

''On the one hand, America has put our leader's name on a wanted persons list and is calling us terrorists; and on the other hand, Karzai is talking about peace talks. It's a joke,'' Yousuf said.

Karzai had said he would allocate some government posts to Taliban and that both Hekmatyar and Omar could stand in the elections, due to be held in 2009, if they wanted power.

Reuters SG DB1828

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