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Pakistani parties back government peace talks

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By The Associated Press
Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, 9:36 p.m.
 

ISLAMABAD — Pakistani political leaders on Monday endorsed government efforts to negotiate with militants in the tribal regions while distancing themselves from a war that they portrayed as being foisted on them by the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.

Pakistan for years has been battling militants in the northeastern part of the country who do not recognize the authority of the government.

Thousands of civilians and members of the security forces have been killed in bombings and shootings carried out by the militants, but the war has been unpopular with many in the country who see it as a battle against them at the behest of the United States and Afghanistan.

The announcement was made after a meeting of politicians from the major political parties in the prime minister's residence to discuss the country's precarious security situation. The meeting was attended by the head of the Pakistani army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence, the country's spy agency.

In a statement, the political leaders called upon the government to “initiate dialogue with all the stakeholders” and authorize the government to do what was necessary to bring about negotiations.

“We declare that we shall ourselves determine the means and mode of fighting this war in our national interest and shall not be guided by the United States of America or any other country in this regard,” the statement said.

The statement condemned America's use of drones in the tribal region to kill militants.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took office in June saying he supported talks rather than military operations to bring about peace.

The Pakistani Taliban, the main militant group fighting in the tribal regions, had rejected Sharif's talk of negotiations. But a spokesman for the group on Monday welcomed the announcement.

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