Karzai renews call for calm, terms for US deal
Addressing a news briefing a day after the killing of two US military officers inside the high-security Ministry of Interior, the president said: “Now is the time for a return to calm. Let’s not allow our enemies to use this situation.”
Regarding the withdrawal of ISAF staff from Afghan ministries, Karzai said the action was understandable. “It is a temporary step at a time when the people are outraged over the burning of the holy Quran,” he remarked.
The US Army officers were reportedly hit in their necks inside their office at the ministry. The attacker, identified as Abdul Saboor, is said to be a worker of the ministry's intelligence department.
But Karzai said it remained unclear as to who had shot dead the advisors. “We have no idea who has done this -- whether he is an Afghan or a foreigner. We are shocked and express our condolences to their families.”
While urging the Afghans to exercise patience, he asked the United Sates to bring to justice the soldiers responsible for the sacrilege. Protesting disrespect to their holy book was Afghans’ right, he conceded, but deplored violence at the rallies.
Unfortunately, the demonstrations had resulted in about 30 people being killed and 200 others wounded, he said. “We have ordered security forces to be careful and protect people's lives and property."
A team of lawmakers, religious scholars and other government officials had asked for the punishment of the soldiers involved in the blasphemous incident, the president said.
“US President Barack Obama has apologised to the Afghan government and people over the alleged burning of the Quran,” he continued. In a letter to him last week, the US leader expressed his deep regrets for the reported incident.
However, Obama insisted: "The error was inadvertent; I assure you that we will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible."
With regard to his last week’s visit to Islamabad, the president said he held fruitful talks with his Pakistani and Iranian counterparts in an atmosphere of sincerity and cordiality. He had told Pakistan to take practical steps toward supporting the peace process in Afghanistan, he said.
The president also referred to Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani’s appeal to the Taliban and other insurgent groups to join the peace process initiated by the Afghan government.
“I would like to appeal to the Taliban leadership as well as other Afghan groups, including Hezb-i-Islami, to take part in the intra-Afghan process for national reconciliation,” Gilani said in a statement on Friday.
Karzai rejected reports that he had demanded the Pakistan government detain Taliban’s supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and produce him for reconciliation parley with his administration.
He said the Afghan government had agreed to the opening of Taliban’s political office in Qatar, with a view to realising the goal of peace. The president made it clear Afghans themselves would decide on where the parleys should take place.
In response to a query, Karzai said his administration was close to naming a new High Peace Council chairman. The government’s top peace negotiator, Burhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated in a suicide bomb attack on his Kabul residence on Sept. 20, 2011.
Afghanistan clung to its stance on signing a strategic cooperation pact with the US, he said, promising that the deal would be inked only when his government’s conditions, including respect for his country’s sovereignty and end to night raids, were met.
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