Afghan president says making 'progress' towards peace
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday he is making "progress" in a key peace process aimed at convincing Taliban rebels fighting his Western-backed government to lay down their arms.
The Afghan president "announced there has been progress in the reintegration process of the government opposition," a statement from his office said, in a reference to Taliban-led insurgents.
"The president said the reconciliation process implemented by the High Peace Council was continuing and the neighbouring countries' role as well as the role of the international community is important for this process," it said.
Karzai made the comments during a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero who was paying a surprise visit to Afghanistan.
Spain has about 1,500 troops in the US-NATO coalition, which has a total deployment of more than 150,000.
Karzai set up the High Peace Council in October to lead his government's efforts to open a dialogue with the Taliban in the hope of moving towards a peace settlement that will end the war.
The efforts are two-pronged -- reintegration and reconciliation, sponsored by the Western allies with a 200-million-dollar trust fund to help pay local Afghan communities to bring fighters in from the cold.
Reconciliation focuses on opening a dialogue with the Taliban leadership, and reintegration on encouraging fighters to rejoin their communities.
© 2010 AFP