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Afghan Leader Says Taliban Attack Won't Stop Peace Process


Afghan President Hamid Karzai (right) shakes hands with British Prime Minister David Cameron during a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul on June 29.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said that a recent Taliban attack on the presidential palace will not deter him from moving ahead with the peace process.

Speaking to journalists on June 29, Karzai downplayed the significance of the daylight Taliban attack earlier this week, saying he wished the militia would spend "all the time attacking the presidential palace and leave the rest of Afghanistan alone."

The Afghan leader reiterated his administration's support for the peace process, which includes talks with the Taliban.

"Even then we want to talk peace, because that is what we are seeking because that is what the country needs, that is what also the Taliban need," Karzai said.

"I would ask them once again to free themselves from foreign influence, from the grips of foreign intelligence agencies and to return to their own country in dignity and in honor and work for their own people."

British Prime Minister David Cameron, in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit, also backed reconciliation among all Afghans.

"We want a political solution as well as making sure we have a security solution. What we've done in Afghanistan is we came here to stop it being used as a base for terrorist attacks. That has been and is successful," Cameron said.

"But what we need to do now is build up the Afghan armed forces who are doing an excellent job, who are now in the security lead right across the country. And at the same time we want to make sure that the politics in Afghanistan enable everyone in Afghanistan to play a role in the future of their country."

Peace negotiations with the Taliban were previously unacceptable to Western leaders. Cameron's predecessor, Gordon Brown, said in 2007 that his country "will not enter into any negotiations with these people."

Surprise Visit

Cameron began his trip by visiting British military personnel in southern Helmand Province, where most of the U.K.'s 7,900 troops are stationed.

He also met with Helmand Governor Mohammad Naiem before traveling on to the Afghan capital to meet with Karzai

Cameron's surprise visit comes one day after Britain's Defense Ministry announced that a dozen Afghan prisoners being held by British troops at Camp Bastion in Helmand had been handed over to Afghan authorities.

Britain, the second-largest contributor of troops to the U.S.-led force in Afghanistan, is set to withdraw all of its combat troops by next year as part of a NATO pullout.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters