Talks with Taliban reported 'going well'

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan President Hamid Karzai confirmed Saturday for the first time that the Afghan and U.S. governments have begun peace discussions with Taliban insurgents, saying that the talks "have started already" and are "going well," according to news accounts. He said foreign military forces, "especially the United States," are "going ahead with these negotiations."

At the same time, however, Karzai blasted the international governments and forces that have been assisting and defending his government over the past decade.

"The nations of the world which are here in our country are here for their own national interests," he said, according to the official transcript of his speech to a youth conference at his presidential palace. "They are using our country."

News accounts of the president's remarks varied, and the official palace version did not include any mention of peace talks. One news agency quoted him as saying talks had gone on "in the course of this year" and that various Taliban emissaries had met with members of the peace council he set up last year to negotiate.

A government spokesman, Hakim Ashur, quoted Karzai as telling the group: "We would like our disgruntled Taliban brothers to come and accept the Afghan constitution, the gains of the past 10 years, democracy and the right of free press and women. Americans support this process and are also involved in the peace process."

No details were cited on the American role, and U.S. Embassy officials declined | to comment. The Washington Post reported last month that administration officials had held several preliminary meetings this spring, in Germany and Qatar, with senior Taliban officials they believed to be close to Afghan Taliban leader Mohammad Omar.

In his comments critical of the international presence in Afghanistan, the president complained that NATO weapons pollute the environment and that foreign aid to Afghanistan amounts to far less than what the foreign forces take away. He also criticized Western forces for killing innocent people in Libya.