Son takes over from murdered talks chief

THE son of a former Afghan peace council chairman killed by a suicide bomber was yesterday elected to succeed his father as head of the group tasked with negotiating with the Taleban to find a political resolution to the decade-long war.

It is hoped that having a new leader after seven months with no-one at the helm will give impetus to the group, which has been in the background of insurgent talks with US, UK, Afghan and other world leaders.

News of Salahuddin Rabbani’s election comes as officials in Kabul meet leaders of militant group Hizb-i-Islami in an effort to bring an end to more than ten years of fighting.

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Part of the US-led coalition’s exit strategy is to gradually transfer security responsibility to Afghan forces. Another tack is to pull the Taleban and other militant factions into political discussions with the Afghan government.

The 70-plus members of the Afghan High Peace Council chose Rabbani, an ethnic Tajik and former ambassador to Turkey, to lead the group in an open election. Rabbani is the son of former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was killed on 20 September last year in his home by a suicide bomber posing as a peace emissary from the Taleban.

Salahuddin Rabbani said: “I believe that bringing peace and stability to our country will only be possible through peace.

“The peace process can be successful only if Afghans are in the lead. Otherwise we cannot achieve things, and we cannot gain the trust of the nation.”

Rabbani also said that continued fighting has resulted in the long-term presence of foreign forces on Afghan soil. He added: “If we have peace in our country, there will be no reason for the foreign forces to stay.”

Rabbani’s election comes as a delegation from Hizb-i-Islami visits Kabul for reconciliation talks.

The five-member delegation has met the High Peace Council and will meet President Hamid Karzai.