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Afghan President Karzai appeals for peace after provincial official's murder

By Ernesto Londono
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, September 28, 2010; 10:42 PM

KABUL - President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday lamented the slaying of a provincial official and renewed his appeal to insurgents to reconcile with the government, weeping openly when he said that he worries that his son might not be able to grow up in Afghanistan.

The deputy governor of the southeastern province of Ghazni, Khazim Allayar, was killed along with his son, a nephew and a bodyguard in the provincial capital Tuesday morning when a suicide bomber rammed a rickshaw into the group's vehicle, according to provincial spokesman Ismail Jahangir.

"This was an act of the Taliban," Jahangir said.

The Taliban has killed several provincial officials whom NATO commanders have sought to empower in an effort to boost local governance.

Speaking at an event in Kabul to promote literacy programs, Karzai addressed Taliban members as "my countrymen" and pleaded with them to refrain from "destroying your own homeland for the benefit of others."

On Tuesday afternoon, Karzai's spokesman released a list of 70 Afghans who will sit on a council tasked with implementing the president's plan to get the Taliban and other militants to join the political process.

Publicly, Taliban leaders say they will not negotiate while foreign troops remain in Afghanistan. But on Monday, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, told reporters that senior Taliban leaders have privately reached out to the Afghan government.

Two of the individuals appointed to the High Council for Peace, Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayaf and Muhammad Ismail Khan, are former jihadi leaders who fought the Taliban during the 1990s.

During his speech marking World Literacy Day, an emotional Karzai accused NATO members and other countries of using Afghanistan as a battleground to settle scores.

"It has been about 10 years," the president said, referring to the U.S.-led war. "The result remains unclear."

He lamented the state of insecurity in the country in uncharacteristically personal terms, noting that children and teachers are afraid to go to school because of the violence that plagues several provinces and saying he fears that young Afghans might abandon their country.

"I don't want my son Mirwais to be a foreigner. I want Mirwais to be Afghan," he said, breaking into tears as he mentioned his 4-year-old son.

Special correspondent Javed Hamdard contributed to this report.

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