Afghan President Karzai Acknowledges Taliban Meetings

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai said Friday he met with Taliban militants in attempts to bring peace to the country and urged supporters of the fundamentalist militia to lay down their weapons.

"We have had representatives from the Taliban meeting with different bodies of Afghan government for a long time," Karzai told a news conference in Kabul. "I have had some Taliban coming to speak to me as well," he said.

Karzai did not disclose any details of these meetings, or indicate if they included talks with senior militant leaders.

Hundreds of former members of the once-ruling hardline Taliban regime have reconciled with the government since they were ousted from power in the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

But senior rebels leaders have refused to hold talks, and thousands more fighters have picked up guns and joined a bloody insurgency, particularly in the country's south and east, which last year alone left some 4,000 people, mainly militants, dead.

Karzai urged Taliban who were Afghans to lay down the weapons and join his government, but ruled out any deals with foreign militants.

"Afghan Taliban are always welcome, they belong to this country ... they are the sons of this soil," Karzai said. "As they repent, as they regret, as they want to come back to their own country, they are welcome."

But the foreign militants — an apparent reference to militants from neighboring countries such as Pakistan — "should be destroyed," he said.

"They are destroying our lives, killing our people, they are not welcome and there will be no talks with them, " Karzai said.