Obama Open to Karzai Plan for Talks with Taliban

Washington, May 13 (IANS) US President Barack Obama has indicated that he may accept Afghan President Hamid Karzai's plan to reconcile with certain Taliban leaders to bring peace to the war-torn nation.

"With respect to perceived tensions between the US government and the Afghan government, let me begin by saying a lot of them were simply overstated," he said at a joint press conference with Karzai after a 45-minute meeting in his Oval office.

Tensions were bound to recur and that difficult work remained in addressing one another's concerns, such as corruption in the Afghan government and civilian casualties resulting from US-led military action, they both said.

Karzai here for a strategic dialogue with the US, has over the last two days has met top US officials including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Defence Robert M. Gates and military leaders.

In his remarks, Karzai said he was committed to helping the White House meet its goals: defeating extremists, ridding his government of corruption, and setting up a viable security force that can step in once the US starts withdrawing troops in July 2011.

"We are in a campaign against terrorism together," Karzai said. "There are days that we are happy; there are days that we are not happy. It's a mutual relationship towards a common objective."

Obama in turn indicated that he was open to Karzais peace plan of reconciling with some of the Taliban leaders. Obama said that the jirga, or tribal assembly of elders, would provide a basis for future talks.

"What we've said is that so long as there's a respect for the Afghan constitution, rule of law, human rights; so long as they are willing to renounce violence and ties to Al Qaeda and other extremist networks; that President Karzai should be able to work to reintegrate those individuals into Afghan society," Obama said.

To maximize leverage in such negotiations, the coalition needs more success in routing the Taliban, he said.

"One of the things I emphasised to President Karzai, however, is, that the incentives for the Taliban to lay down arms, or at least portions of the Taliban to lay down arms, and make peace with the Afghan government in part depends on our effectiveness in breaking their momentum militarily," Obama said.

In a joint statement released Wednesday, Obama said it was his "strong desire" to have Afghan security forces conduct all searches, arrests and detention operations.

In the news conference, Karzai said the agreement to form a team of advisors that will come up with a new timeline for handing over the prison was a "major point of progress."


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Title: Obama Open to Karzai Plan for Talks with Taliban

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