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Jirga may suggest talks with Afghan govt opponents

11 August, 2007

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KABUL: The ongoing Regional Peace Jirga may establish contact with opponents of the Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai, secretary of the forum from Afghanistan Ismail Yoon hinted the other day.

Addressing a joint news conference with his Pakistani counterpart Rustam Shah Momand, Yoon said the Afghan government had invited Taliban to talks in the past and the jirga might also contact them to bring peace to the insurgency-wracked country.

Several opponents had already joined the government as part of an ongoing reconciliation process and were elected as representatives of the people, he pointed out, referring to several members of the Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan and Taliban in the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament.

"The jirga is the proper beginning for solution of all disputes, but not an end. It forum may open new avenues for opponents to adopt peaceful means to resolve their grievances in the future," Yoon hoped.

Besides President Karzai and Pakistani Premier Shaukat Aziz, he said, 22 participants had so far delivered speeches since the beginning of the grand moot on Thursday.

Regarding the formation of the five joint working committees, Yoon said their main responsibility was to ascertain the causes of terrorism and militancy and suggest ways and means to deal with the twin menace.

Regarding the kidnapping of the Korean nationals in the Ghazni province, Yoon said it was possible to avoid inclusion of routine incidents in the declaration of the tribal council.

To a question about how decisions of the jirga would be given practical shape, he said leaders of the two countries had promised to respect the gathering's recommendations. At the same time, he added, a joint commission would also be constituted for the purpose.

Former Pakistan ambassador to Kabul and jirga secretary Rustam Shah Momand said in case the participants asked for talks with opponents of the government (Taliban and Hezb-i-Islami), implementation of such a proposal would depend on the two sides.

Asked what if the jirga's decision clashed with the interest of the United States and its allies in Afghanistan, Momand replied a final decision would have to be taken by the Afghan government in such a situation.

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