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Karzai: U.S., Taliban Holding 'Daily' Talks

Afghan President Hamid Karzai
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said that representatives of the Taliban have been holding talks "on a daily basis" with the U.S. government.

Karzai said the talks have taken place in "European and Gulf countries," despite the fact that the Taliban reportedly broke off contacts with the United States last year.

Karzai added that the Taliban continues to carry out attacks across Afghanistan "to show their power to the United States."

He said two suicide bombings that killed 19 people on March 9 -- one outside the Afghan Defense Ministry and the other near a police checkpoint in eastern Khost Province -- show the Taliban is conducting attacks to demonstrate that international forces will still be needed to keep the peace after their current combat mission ends in 2014.

"The bombing that took place yesterday and was carried out in the name of the Taliban -- these actions, in fact, show that the Taliban are serving the foreigners and are not against the foreigners," Karzai said. "These bombings show that the Taliban want the longer presence of foreigners, not their departure from Afghanistan."

The United States has not responded to Karzai's statements.

Washington has said it remains committed to political reconciliation involving talks with the Taliban but that progress would require agreement between the Afghan government and the militant group.

The Taliban's spokesman in Afghanistan, Zabihullah Mujahid, also denied that negotiations with the United States had resumed and said no progress had been made since they were suspended.

'Abusing' Students

Karzai on March 10 also alleged that U.S.-led forces and Afghans working with them were abusing and arresting university students and urged them to stop.

He issued a decree instructing the Interior Ministry and the intelligence agency to prevent troops from entering universities and other educational institutions.

Karzai said the ban also applied to the troops' "illegal Afghan colleagues," in a reference to militias supported by Washington, whom he said "arrested and annoyed a number of "students."

His comments came as a news conference with Karzai and visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel scheduled for March 10 was canceled amid security concerns.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the matter publicly, would not provide details on the security concerns.

They said Karzai and Hagel were expected to meet in private.

Pentagon press secretary George Little said the cancellation of the press conference was not due to Karzai's comments about the Taliban.

With reporting by dpa, Reuters, and AP
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