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Saudi Arabia Sets Conditions For Afghan Role

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal (file photo)
LONDON (Reuters) -- Saudi Arabia will only take part in Afghan peace efforts if the Taliban denies sanctuary to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and cuts ties with militant networks, the kingdom's foreign minister has said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai had called on Saudi Arabia, which has hosted talks between Afghan government and Taliban representatives in the past, to help bring peace to Afghanistan.

"Unless the Taliban give up the issue of sanctuary [to bin Laden], I don't think the negotiations with them will be possible or feasible to achieve anything," Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters today on the sidelines of a London conference.

"We have two conditions: that the request comes officially from Afghanistan and the Taliban has to prove its intentions in coming to the negotiations by cutting their relations with the terrorists and proving it," he said.

"By keeping their contacts with bin Laden they won't be coming to any negotiations with a positive attitude.

Policy Change

"I think the important theme in this conference is the intention to change policy in Afghanistan, a recognition first that the settlement in Afghanistan is not going to be a military question alone but there has to be a political and economic side to the settlement," Prince Saud said.

The United States has insisted that insurgents can only be included in a political settlement if they sever all ties with Al-Qaeda, renounce violence, and respect the Afghan Constitution.

Karzai said that Afghanistan needed the support of its neighbours, particularly Pakistan, to secure peace.

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates were the only three countries to recognize the Taliban government before it was ousted in the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.