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Rabbani Heading New Afghan Peace Council

Burhanuddin Rabbani has been implicated in war crimes that occurred when he was Afghan president in the early 1990s.

The new Afghan peace council, whose mission is to seek a negotiated peaceful end to the nine-year-old war with the Taliban and other insurgent groups, is being led by a veteran of Afghanistan's conflict who has also been implicated in war crimes.

The office of President Hamid Karzai announced on October 10 that the 70-member High Peace Council would be led by Burhanuddin Rabbani, a mujahedin leader who fought Soviet forces in the 1980s and was Afghanistan's president in the first half of the 1990s -- until 1996 when his government was ousted by the Taliban.

According to U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, Rabbani is among prominent Afghans who have been implicated in war crimes that killed or displaced thousands of Afghans during the civil war of the first half of the 1990s.

Publicly, Taliban leaders have said they won't negotiate for peace until all foreign troops leave Afghanistan.

However, in a new interview with U.S. CNN television, President Karzai said his government officials have been holding what he called "unofficial personal" talks with Taliban figures "for quite some time."

Karzai described the talks as "countryman to countryman," but said there had been no "official contacts" between the sides.

compiled from agency reports