Taliban become focus of Pakistan peace talks

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The presidents of Afghanistan and Iran have met in Pakistan for a three-way summit expected to focus on steps Islamabad can take to bring about peace talks with the Afghan Taliban.

Pakistan is seen as key to the peace process because of historical ties with the Taliban and their feared ally, the Haqqani network. The leaders of both groups are believed to be based in Pakistan and in close touch with Pakistani intelligence officials.

Among those Afghan President Hamid Karzai was scheduled to meet during his trip is Maulana Samiul Haq, known as the spiritual father of the Taliban because he runs an Islamic seminary in north-west Pakistan that taught many group leaders. Haq has also supported the insurgency in Afghanistan.

Haq urged the leaders of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran to work together to push US-led forces out of Afghanistan. He said: “A forceful stance by Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran will bring peace and stability in this region by pushing out the foreign forces.”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is also likely to highlight a proposed pipeline taking natural gas from Iran to Pakistan. The US has opposed this because of tensions with Iran over its nuclear programme, and has pushed for an alternative pipeline to transport gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan.