Taliban rejects Karzai's offer of safe passage

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The Independent Online

Taliban militants rejected an offer of peace talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, saying there would be no negotiations until foreign troops leave Afghanistan.

Karzai offered to provide security for reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Omar if he enters negotiations and said the US and other Western nations could leave Afghanistan or oust him if they disagree.

But Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said yesterday there could be no talks while foreign troops are in the country.

"The Taliban's (leadership) decided they will not take part in any peace talks with Karzai or Karzai's administration until such a day when foreign forces leave Afghanistan," Mujahid told The Associated Press.

"The Taliban will pursue jihad against foreign forces and (Karzai's) government." he said, speaking from an undisclosed location.

In Washington, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack questioned Karzai's security guarantee.

"One can't imagine the circumstances where you have the senior leadership of the Taliban — that there would be any safe passage with respect to US forces. Certainly, it's hard to imagine those circumstances standing here right now," McCormack said.

The White House also made clear its distaste for the idea of talking with Taliban leaders right now, particularly Omar.