Afghan President Seeks Saudi Mediation With Taliban

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai met Wednesday with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to try to secure an active role by the Arab kingdom in efforts to persuade Taliban militants to join the political process in Afghanistan.

Before the meeting, Karzai's spokesman Waheed Omar told reporters that the Afghan leader "will ask King Abdullah to initiate a mediation with Taliban to start peace talks."

A Saudi official later said that Karzai made the proposal to King Abdullah but gave no further details. The official was speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.

Last week, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said the kingdom will not get involved in peacemaking in Afghanistan unless the Taliban severs all ties with Usama bin Laden and his terror Al Qaeda network.

Saudi Arabia has a unique relationship with Taliban since it was one of the few countries to recognize its militant regime before it was ousted in 2001. It also has in the past acted as an intermediary between Taliban and rival Afghan factions.

The Saudi conditions for participating in the talks with Taliban, especially expelling former Saudi citizen bin Laden, are not new, but Riyadh is reiterating them amid a new international push to persuade it to mediate with the Afghan militants.

Karzai has said he is looking forward to a key Saudi role, not only in reconstruction, but a broader role for peace-building and talks with Taliban.

Bin Laden is a member of a wealthy Saudi family but fell out with the government in the early 1990s over the presence of U.S. troops there. He has repeatedly condemned the Saudi ruling family and was stripped of his citizenship in 1994.

Saudi Arabia is wary of getting involved in Afghanistan again, following its role in funding the anti-Soviet resistance in the 1980s and later the movement that became the Taliban.