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Pakistani militants hail government talks offer

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A Pakistani journalist gestures at a Facebook page used by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on a laptop computer screen in Islamabad on December 7, 2012. A Pakistani militant group Thursday welcomed a call for dialogue by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with extremists to end bloodshed that has left thousands dead. (AFP/File)

A Pakistani militant group Thursday welcomed a call for dialogue by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with extremists to end bloodshed that has left thousands dead.

Sharif made the offer to extremists on Monday in his first televised address to the nation since taking office after winning elections in May -- a sweeping, hour-long speech that focused on Pakistan's myriad problems.

"Wisdom demands that we follow a path where we minimise the loss of innocent lives," said Sharif.

He campaigned for an historic third term as premier by offering peace talks to the Pakistani Taliban, the leaders of a devastating domestic insurgency that has links to Al-Qaeda.

"We welcome the offer of talks by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif," Tehreek-e-Taliban Punjab chief Ismatullah Muaweea said in a statement distributed in Wana, the main town of lawless South Waziristan tribal district bordering Afghanistan.

Muaweea's faction is linked to the main TTP umbrella militant group based in northwestern tribal belt along the Afghan border which has yet to respond to the call for talks by Sharif.

"The prime minister has shown maturity with his talks offer and he has also strengthened the desire for peace by staying executions," Muaweea said.

Pakistan on Sunday ordered a temporary stay of executions following objections from the president and rights groups, days before they were due to resume after a five-year moratorium.

Pakistan has more than 7,000 prisoners on death row, one of the largest populations of prisoners facing execution in the world.

Pakistani Taliban militants, who have been waging a domestic insurgency since 2007, have said they will consider the executions of any of its prisoners a declaration of war.

Pakistan says tens of thousands of people have been killed in the country as a result of terrorism since 200.