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Karzai renews call on Taliban to lay down weapons

Karzai renews call on Ta

Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on the Taliban and other extremist groups Friday to lay down their weapons and participate in rebuilding the battered country, as part of reconciliation efforts he has said will be his main objective during his second term. Karzai's appeal, made in a message marking the major Muslim holiday of Eid, came two days after the reclusive Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, issued a statement ruling out talks with the president and calling on Afghans to break off relations with his "stooge" administration. The hard-line militia has long refused to negotiate with Karzai's government or join what it considers a puppet administration. The president also reiterated a call to his main rival during the fraud-marred presidential election, Abdullah Abdullah, to join in helping the country - although he stopped short of inviting him into the government. Abdullah, who served for several years as foreign minister in Karzai's government, pulled out of an election runoff scheduled for earlier this month, saying it was impossible to guarantee a free and fair vote.
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