Afghan President Hamid Karzai acknowledged for the first time he has met with Taliban militants in attempts to bring peace to his country, which is struggling to quell a rising insurgency.
Karzai's assertion - immediately rejected as false by a Taliban spokesman - came as a suicide car bomber killed four people and wounded four others in Kabul on Friday, and militants overran a district in the volatile southeast.
"We have had representatives from the Taliban meeting with different bodies of Afghan government for a long time," Karzai told a news conference. "I have had some Taliban coming to speak to me as well."
Karzai urged Afghan militants to lay down weapons and join his government.
"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."