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S. Arabia offers asylum to Omar

November 23, 2008

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BERLIN, Nov 22: King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has offered political asylum to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, German weekly Der Spiegel reported on Saturday.

The offer had been pushed by US President George W. Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the magazine said in an advance report from its Monday edition, quoting government sources in Kabul.

The magazine did not give further details.

A Saudi foreign ministry official was not available for comment.

Saudi Arabia hosted a meeting between pro-government Afghan officials and former Taliban officials in September for discussions on how to end the worsening conflict in Afghanistan.

An Afghan government official said on Wednesday that Afghan government representatives and former members of the Taliban were expected to meet in Saudi Arabia soon for a second round of talks.

The official said President Karzai, King Abdullah and President Asif Ali Zardari had discussed the initiative on the sidelines of a United Nations conference in New York this month.

Mullah Omar is suspected to be hiding in the mountainous areas along the Pakistan-Afghan border.

Mr Karzai has said he would guarantee the safety of Mullah Omar if he wants to talk peace to end the Taliban insurgency.

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates were the main supporters of the Taliban when they ruled from 1996 to 2001.—Reuters

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