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    Gilani confirms sending Taliban to Qatar

    KABUL (PAN): Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on Thursday confirmed for the first time sending a high-level Taliban delegation to Qatar for possible peace talks with US officials, an official said.

    Gilani said this at a meeting with President Hamid Karzai, who arrived in Islamabad on the eve of a trilateral summit. Karzai, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will meet on Friday.

    The Karzai-Gilani meeting was also attended by Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Interior Minister Rahman Malik, Army Chief Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Gen. Shuja Pasha.

    A spokesman for Karzai, Aimal Faizi, told Pajhwok Afghan News the president was assisted by his Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Omar Daudzai and other-high ranking officials.

    Faizi said Pakistan, for the first time, confirmed sending a Taliban delegation for talks to Qatar. Gilani stopped short of giving further details in this regard, but said his country supported an Afghan-led reconciliation programme, according to Faizi.

    Gilani told Karzai the Pakistani government had arrested two suspects in connection with the assassination of High Peace Council chief, Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was killed in a suicide attack on his Kabul residence on Sept. 20.

    Kabul alleges the attack was planned in Pakistan, asking Islamabad to thoroughly investigate the incident. Karzai praised Pakistani leadership for cooperating with the investigation of Rabbani’s killing.

    Gilani also sought Afghanistan’s support for a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan. He urged Karzai to ensure Afghan soil was not used against Pakistan.

    Last week, reports said Afghan security forces killed two Pakistani nationals after kidnapping them from Balochistan province. However, the governor of southern Kandahar province said the deceased were Afghans, who wanted to plant roadside bombs.

    But Gilani said the Afghan post in the border region was located inside Pakistan and should be removed.

    Karzai assured Kabul’s support for the gas pipeline project and said Afghan soil would never be used against Pakistan at any cost, Faizi continued. Karzai promised a probe into the location of the Afghan security post.

    The visiting leader asked the Pakistani government to allow hundreds of stranded Afghanistan-bound containers laden with textbooks to proceed from the Karachi port to the landlocked country.  Gilani assured early release of the containers.

    Karzai also called for the removal of hurdles to implementation of the recently-concluded transit trade agreement and resolving problems being faced by Afghan traders in Pakistan.

    Accompanied by his delegation, Karzai later went into talks with Pakistani officials behind closed doors. He was assisted by Rassoul and National Security Advisor Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta.

    Although details of the meeting were not released, an Afghan official privy to the talks told Pajhwok Afghan News on condition of anonymity the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar came under discussion.

    Later, Karzai held an inform meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, and Jamaat-i-Islami chief Qazi Hussain Ahmad. Ways and means of bringing durable stability to Afghanistan figured prominently at the talks.

    ma/mud