Karzai: Attack won’t halt peace process

Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged Taliban militants to sit down at the negotiating table, saying Saturday that his government is still willing to start peace talks with the insurgents despite a deadly attack by the group on the presidential palace this week.

Speaking alongside visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron, Karzai told reporters in Kabul that moving ahead with talks was the only way to end nearly 12 years of war.

“The attack that was organized near the presidential palace will not deter us from seeking peace,” Karzai said, adding that he considered it “peanuts.”

“We’re more concerned when they attack Afghan civilians, we’re more concerned when they attack Afghan schools and children,” he said. “I wish they would spend all their time attacking the presidential palace and leave the rest of the country alone.”

The Taliban has indicated that it is willing to open peace talks with the United States and the Afghanistan government and opened an office in Qatar a little more than a week ago for possible negotiations.

At the same time, however, it has not renounced violence, and attacks have continued across Afghanistan. In the most recent incident, a suicide car bomber attacked a NATO convoy in the western province of Farah late Friday, killing two Afghan civilians, authorities said Saturday.

— Associated Press

Dozens detained at rally for gay pride

Russian police arrested a number of gay rights activists and Russian nationalists who confronted them at a rally in St. Petersburg on Saturday that was declared illegal under a new law against “gay propaganda.”

The state-run Itar-TASS news agency quoted an unnamed police official as dozens of people, including eight nationalists, were detained.

City officials deemed that the rally, which was held in a space designated for public demonstrations, violated the law. The statute essentially prohibits public displays of homosexuality, as well as talking about it to children.

About 200 nationalists gathered at the rally, chanting slogans such as “Sodomy will not pass” and throwing eggs and rocks at the gay rights activists, who numbered about 40.

Russia’s parliament passed the law earlier this month. St. Petersburg was one of several cities to pass similar laws at the local level before that.

— Associated Press

Pakistani girl accused of blasphemy reportedly in Canada: A Christian girl who was accused of burning the Koran in a case that focused international attention on Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws was forced to move to Canada in March with her family over security concerns, her lawyer said. A Muslim cleric who lobbied for her release said the girl, who was arrested last August but later acquitted, said she had been facing threats and was moving constantly.

Bomb kills 7 troops in southern Thailand: Seven soldiers finishing up a patrol were killed by a roadside bomb in Yala province, in Thailand’s insurgency-plagued south, police said. More than 5,000 people have been killed in the Buddhist-dominated country’s three southernmost Muslim-majority provinces since an Islamic insurgency erupted in 2004. Attacks occur almost daily despite the government’s continuing efforts to engage in talks with the Muslim militants.

Attacks leave 7 dead in Iraq: A bomb exploded at an outdoor market in the western Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib, killing four people, police said. Separately, attackers using guns fitted with silencers killed three off-duty policemen in a drive-by shooting near Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad. Health officials confirmed the casualties.

— From news services