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    Peace body to listen to 'legitimate demands': spokesman

    KABUL(PAN): The High Peace Council spokesman on Thursday, quoting President Hamid Karzai, said some Taliban leaders had held talks with the Kabul administration. Talking to reporters, Qayamuddin Kashaf refused to give details of the talks, citing sensitivities that could endanger the peace process.

    The High Council for Peace has been established to hold talks with the Taliban and other insurgent groups to end the conflict that is now in its 10th year and has gained pace every year.

    Pledging to listen to 'legitimate demands,' the council led by former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, called on Taliban leaders to enter dialogue with Hamid Karzai's government, Kashaf said, reading out the council's official message.

    He said the council demanded the armed opposition and their leaders to give up violence and join the peace process for an end to the conflict.

    He said the body, dominated by former jihadi commanders, tribal elders, ex-Taliban officials and the Afghan government figures, would listen to their 'legitimate demands' and build trust among all sides under a sound political process to allow Afghans to strengthen their national sovereignty through non-violent and healthy measures.

    Kashaf urged Saudi King Abdullah, whose country -- apart from Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates -- was the only one to recognise the Taliban's 1996-2001 regime, to help bind the Taliban into peace talks.

    "We demand His Majesty, the Servant of the Holy Sites, the King of Saudi Arabia to use his influence with Taliban and help us in the peace process. Saudi Arabia has influence with the Taliban," he said.

    Kashaaf also urged Karzai's administration and its Western military backers, a 150,000-strong US-led force, to help Afghans end the violence through talks, gave no further details.

    About the secret talks, he said: "What I can say is that someone from the armed opposition group has given a green signal to the peace initiative."

    His remarks come amid reports that NATO aircrafts have been used for taking important Taliban figures to Kabul for talks with the Afghan government.

    It has been said that talks are being held with members of Quetta Shura while leader of the Taliban movement, Mullah Muhammad Omar, is sidelined in the process.

    Kashaf said ensuring security for Taliban willing to join the peace process was needed to be ensured both by national and international forces.

    Calling the Taliban as sons of the soil, he said the council wanted to ensure a dignified return of all armed opposition groups to a normal life.

    Kashaf called upon warring parties to quit using weapons and solve their problems through the mediation of the council.

    ss/ma