Karzai Vows to Protect Taliban Chief in Talks
Will not cave to huge bounty, or US pressure to turn Omar over
By Drew Nelles,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 16, 2008 3:50 PM CST
The rarely photographed Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar is reportedly seen in this undated photo.    (AP Photo/File)
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(Newser) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai will ensure the safety of Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar if he agrees to peace talks, the Washington Post reports. "If I say I want protection for Mullah Omar, the international community has two choices: remove me or leave," Karzai said, referring to US demands for Omar to be turned over.

International pressure is mounting for a negotiated settlement between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents, with observers speculating that secret talks have already started. Insurgent spokesmen have denied they will participate in negotiations, but former Taliban leaders met with Karzai representatives in Saudi Arabia in September. The US has offered a multimillion-dollar reward for the capture of Omar, who ruled Afghanistan from the 1990s until the 2001 international invasion.