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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Thursday, January 18, 2018

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Taliban urged by new Afghanistan president to join peace process

New Afghanistan President asked Taliban to surrender

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KABUL, Afghanistan - New Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai Monday asked Taliban militants to surrender their arms and join the country's political process.

The call to lay down weapons came in Ahmadzai's first speech after he was sworn in as the new president of the war-torn nation. He replaced Hamid Karzai in the country's first democratic transfer of power since the US-led invasion toppled the Taliban government in 2001.

Ahmadzai's oath was followed by swearing in of his election challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, who will be the chief executive officer of Afghanistan. His powers will be the same as that of a prime minister.

By allowing Abdullah to share the power, Ahmadzai, a former finance minister, has fulfilled a pledge he had taken to end political stalemate that had threatened to spark violence between the country's north and south.

Abdullah, a former foreign minister, spoke first and thanked Karzai for his service.

"We are committed as one in the national unity government," Abdullah said. "Our commitment will be fulfilled together as unified team to create national unity."

Ahmadzai in his first speech as the president called on the Taliban and other militants to join the country's peace process.

"We are tired of war," Ahmadzai said in a televised address. "Our message is peace, (but) this doesn't mean we are weak."

But the speech, as expected, did little to ease violent unrest in the country where foreign forces are all set to withdraw at the end of the year.

Militant violence killed at least 16 civilians and police officers in separate attacks Monday.

Officials said that a suicide bomber detonated an explosive-laden vehicle at the entrance of a district headquarters in Paktia's Zurmat district, killing 12.

A suicide attack by the Taliban killed four civilians and injured two others near Kabul's airport.

Ahmadzai, also a former World Bank official, also swore in his two vice presidents.

He congratulated Karzai for a peaceful and democratic transition of power and promised to confront the country's endemic corruption.

"We want to be held accountable. I am your leader but I am no better than you. If I make mistakes, you should hold me accountable," Ghani Ahmadzai said.

The inauguration of the new government has revitalized hopes of US officials who expect Ahmadzai to sign a security agreement with America sooner.

The pact will allow about 10,000 American troops to stay in the country after the international combat mission ends on Dec 31 this year.

Both Ghani and Abdullah support the signing of the security agreement that Karzai had refused to ink.> BNN

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