Afghanistan upbeat after Pakistan talks on Taliban

Kabul:  Pakistan is more willing than before to play a role in Afghanistan`s tentative peace process with the Taliban, Afghan President Hamid Karzai`s top officials said today after a visit to Islamabad.

Taliban havens in Pakistan and Islamabad`s reputed ties to insurgent leaders in the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network make neighbouring Pakistan`s involvement vital in any sustainable peace deal.

Karzai, who met Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, called on the Pakistani government to help Taliban rebels take part in any peace negotiations, said Mohammad Masoom Stanikzai, secretary of a peace council set up by Karzai.

"During the talks, the message of the Afghan government was very clear," he said.

"The message was that those (rebels) who want to join the peace process and reconcile should be facilitated and the means should be prepared for them in order to enable them to join the negotiations," he added.

 But those who do not want to join the reconciliation process "must be dropped… No room should be left (for them to) arrange and organise and encourage people to fight and continue the war."

In response, Pakistan was "much more welcoming than at any other time", said Karzai`s spokesman Waheed Omer.

"The acceptance was better and (Pakistan) made some promises about practical actions and we are hopeful that (the promises) are practised in action," he added, although he did not disclose what those promises were.