Kabul, Nov 17 : Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said that he would go to "any extent" to protect the fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar in exchange for peace in the country.
Karzai said he would offer the protection even if it meant defying Afghanistan's international partners, who could remove him from his job or leave the country in disagreement.
"If I hear from him that he is willing to come to Afghanistan or to negotiate for peace ... I, as the President of Afghanistan, will go to any length to provide (Mullah Omar) protection," The News quoted Karzai as telling reporters.
He added: "If I say I want protection for Mullah Omar, the international community has two choices - remove me or leave if they disagree."
He said his government would "accept no preconditions" from the Taliban, and added: "If they want to negotiate only for the sake of peace, they are welcome."
Mullah Omar is wanted by the US and has a multi-million-dollar reward on his head. "Right now I have to hear from the Taliban leadership that they are willing to bring peace for Afghanistan. They must prove themselves," said Karzai.
For the past few years, the Afghan President has been pushing for peace talks with the Taliban as a way out of a deadly insurgency in which foreign militants, including those from Al-Qaeda, are said to be playing a part. However, he has always insisted that his government would only consider talks with "Afghan Taliban" who do not have ties with Al-Qaeda and agree to lay down their weapons and accept the post-Taliban constitution.
The Taliban have said they would only agree to negotiations if international troops helping the government pull out.