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Afghan President Karzai says Taliban, US holding talks

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has claimed that the US and Taliban are holding regular talks. But a Taliban spokesman has denied the president’s assertion.

President Karzai said on Sunday that Taliban and American representatives are in contact on a daily basis in European and Gulf countries, one year after the Islamist militant group withdrew from negotiations with Washington in Qatar.

“We are aware of talks,” Karzai told an event commemorating International Women's Day in Kabul. “Both foreigners and some patriot Taliban give us information about the ongoing talks between Taliban and Americans.”

The Afghan president's assertion comes a day after two suicide blasts killed at least 18 people in Kabul and in the eastern Khost province. Karzai said that the Taliban “explode bombs in Kabul and Khost to show their power to the US, as they claimed.”

But Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied that the militant group and Washington were engaged in talks, saying that the Taliban “strongly rejects Karzai's comments.”

The Obama administration has remained open to political reconciliation talks with the Taliban, but has said that an agreement must be forged between the Kabul government and the militant group, which was ousted from power during the 2001 US invasion.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel – who is visiting American troops in Afghanistan - is expected to meet with President Karzai on Sunday.

slk/dr (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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