Pakistani Minister Welcomes Taliban Negotiation Offer
by VOA News December 28, 2012
Officials in northwest Pakistan say they welcome the Pakistani Taliban's offer to negotiate with the government.
In a video released to news outlets, Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud said his group is open to talks with the government if Pakistan cuts ties to the United States. Mehsud also said asking the Taliban to disarm before any negotiations was not an option.
On Friday, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province's Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the government was not asking the Taliban to give up their weapons ahead of any meaningful dialogue.
'We have not talked of surrender of arms; what we have said is that violence can be renounced, which is important for negotiations,' Hussain said. 'We are aware of our traditions, and surrendering arms is difficult, but to renounce violence is in line with the tradition.'
The information minister said it is now up to the Taliban to form a negotiation team with the mandate to talk peace.
'We are ready to help the federal government if asked for assistance in negotiations with the Taliban,' Hussain added.
The Taliban has been blamed for a number of attacks in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Pakistan's neighboring tribal agencies.
A suicide blast Saturday in the provincial capital, Peshawar, killed nine people, including a top provincial minister. The bomber struck a meeting of the Awami National Party. Among those killed was Bashir Ahmed Bilour, number two to the chief minister the province.
The United States has carried out a number of drone strikes against Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militants in Pakistan's northwest. Pakistani security officials said the latest strike took place Friday and killed four suspected militants in the North Waziristan tribal agency along the Afghan border.
Pakistan has condemned such attacks, saying they violate the country's sovereignty. U.S. officials, who rarely speak publicly about drone strikes, say they are crucial to the fight against militants.
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