| GEO Pakistan|
President Zardari open to Taliban talks
| Updated at: 0501 PST, Saturday, August 07, 2010|
LONDON: President Asif Ali Zardari said Friday he's willing to consider reopening negotiations with the Taliban in his country ó a statement that came amid a flurry of criticism that some elements within Pakistan remain sympathetic to the extremist group.
Zardari told a foreign news agency that his country had never closed the door to talks with the Taliban.
"We never closed the dialogue," Zardari told agency, skirting the question of when talks could actually resume. "We had an agreement, which they broke. (Talks will resume) whenever they feel we're strong enough and they realize they can't win, because they won't win. It will be a painful difficult task, but defeat is not an option."
Last year, the Pakistani government struck a deal with the Taliban in the Swat Valley that gave them effective control over the region. The militants did not abide by the agreement and moved into another region, prompting an all-out offensive by the Pakistani army. Some 2,500 Pakistani security forces have been killed.
Although some believe the only way to win the war will be to talk to extremists, the United States and Pakistan's other Western allies have been urging the country to continue fighting the Pakistani Taliban, not talk to them. The movement has been behind dozens of bloody attacks inside Pakistan.
The group, which is loosely based in the tribal regions close to the Afghan border, was involved in the failed Times Square car bombing and the suicide attack on a CIA base in December in Afghanistan that killed seven CIA employees. It has links with al-Qaida and the Afghan Taliban fighting across the border in Afghanistan.
Zardari, the widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, called accusations by British Prime Minister David Cameron and others that Pakistan was exporting terrorism "exaggerated." He also said the military was doing more than what it ever had.
He said the military was working hard to rid the Swat Valley and South Waziristan of extremist elements.
"We have more soldiers on the border now and have lost more soldiers in this war than anyone else," Zardari said, referring to the hundreds of troops killed in battles with militants over the years. "We have also lost more citizens in this war than any other country. Should we have the capability, we would definitely do more."
He dismissed assertions that some in the Pakistani government may know the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.
The international community has all the modern technology available to it, Zardari said. "We do not have the technology. We do not have the intelligence like they do," he said.
Zardari urged the international community to equip his military with drones and other equipment. He also called for more help in opening up international markets to Pakistani trade and products.
When asked why so few militants had ever been brought to justice ó including those alleged to have killed his wife ó Zardari said "most of them we don't catch alive."