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Karzai Challenges Taliban Chief To Run For Afghan President

Afghan President Hamid Karzai
President Hamid Karzai has challenged Taliban leader Mullah Omar to take part in Afghanistan's elections.

Karzai told reporters in Kabul on July 12 that "Mullah Mohammad Omar can come inside Afghanistan anywhere he wants to. He can open political office for himself, but he should leave the gun [beside]."

Karzai added that Omar and his associates could "create his political party, do politics, and become a candidate himself for the elections."

"If people voted for [Omar], good for him," Karzai said. "He can take the leadership in his hand."

Omar is one of the world's most wanted men, with the United States offering a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to his capture.

He is wanted by Washington for sheltering Al-Qaeda militants from 1996 to 2001, including leader Osama bin Laden, who was deemed responsible for carrying out the September 11 airliner-hijacking attacks in America in 2001, which killed nearly 3,000 people.

The whereabouts of the one-eyed fugitive Taliban leader remain unknown since his rule of Afghanistan was ended by the U.S. invasion of the country in late 2001.

Some reports say he could be living in Pashtun tribal areas of Afghanistan or Pakistan.

Afghanistan's next presidential elections are currently scheduled to take place in 2014 -- the same year as NATO-led international combat troops plan to withdraw from the country.

Earlier this year, Karzai discussed the possibility of bringing the elections forward to 2013.

Speaking at a press conference in April, Karzai said he wasn't sure whether Afghanistan would be able to handle "the complete return of international forces to their homes from Afghanistan and the holding of the presidential election at the same time."

Karzai himself is constitutionally barred from running for a third term in office. He has been in power for more than a decade.

Karzai has repeatedly called on Omar and other insurgents trying to overthrow his U.S.-backed administration to renounce violence and accept peaceful reintegration.

He reiterated these calls during a press conference on July 12, saying: "All Afghans, those who aren't the puppets of others and have [only] issues with us at home – they are welcome for any talks."

The Taliban has repeatedly turned down Karzai's offers and earlier this year withdrew from exploratory talks with the United States.
With reporting by AFP, AP, and dpa
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