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Karzai Reiterates Offer To Talk With Militants

Afghan President Karzai (file photo) (epa) September 9, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai has reiterated his willingness to negotiate with the Taliban and other militants.

Karzai made his remarks today at a news conference shortly after a security scare interrupted him during a speech marking the sixth anniversary of the killing of Ahmed Shah Masoud, the famed anti-Taliban military leader.

Afghan security stopped a crowd of people from forcing their way into Kabul's sports stadium during Karzai's speech, which ended abruptly as he was rushed away after gunshots and fighting broke out.

Shah Masoud was killed two days before the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

Stand On Their Own Feet

In his speech, Karzai told the stadium crowd of some 15,000 people that many countries around the world are trying to help Afghanistan so that it can take care of itself. He also called for unity among Afghans.

"We have already suggested negotiations with the Taliban and Hizb-e Islami and we repeat it as well," he said. "In fact, we have to be ready for talks with every Afghan and I confirm [former Afghan President Burhanuddin] Rabbani's comment in this regard. He said peace without negotiation is just not possible. Any Afghan who is ready to come to his country and assist the peaceful development of his country is most welcome."

Karzai said in his speech that Afghanistan should stand on its "own feet, to feed itself, and to secure itself." Suddenly the shouts and skirmishes could be heard in the background.

Karzai abruptly ended his speech saying, "Dear sisters and brothers, respect for all of you. We're ending the session, goodbye."

Increased Violence

Only an hour later, at a news conference with visiting Latvian President Valdis Zatlers, Karzai said the security situation in Afghanistan has worsened, though the statement didn't appear to be linked to the events at the ceremony.

Violence has been on the rise in Afghanistan this year.

According to AP based on figures from Afghan and Western officials, more than 4,200 people -- the huge majority of them militants -- have died in insurgency-related violence this year.

The U.S.-led coalition said in a statement today that a roadside bomb killed a coalition soldier and wounded four.

On September 8, suspected Taliban militants attacked a World Food Program convoy in Nimroz Province. Local officials say that in the battle two police and 11 insurgents died.

(RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan)

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