KABUL- Afghan President Hamid Karzai renewed his call on Saturday for the Taliban to accept his peace proposal, after a NATO offensive and the capture of a top Taliban leader raised hopes the group could be more flexible.
At a conference on Afghanistan in London in January, donor nations backed Karzai's plans for peace talks and pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to persuade fighters to lay down weapons.
Taliban insurgents have repeatedly turned down his offer, saying foreign troops should leave Afghanistan first.
I once again call on Taliban and other opposition groups... to come back and take part in peace, reconstruction and developments of their country, Karzai told lawmakers during the re-opening of parliament after the winter break.
Our nation, more than anything else needs peace and reconciliation. This is our country's prime desire and national necessity.
Karzai made his appeal after the capture this month in Pakistan of three Taliban officials, including the group's number 2, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
A son of the leader of a major Afghan Taliban faction attacking Western forces in Afghanistan was killed in a missile strike by a U.S. drone in North Waziristan on Thursday in another blow to the militants.
Karzai said the government and foreign troops would continue to fight al Qaeda and again proposed reintegration of Taliban foot soldiers, who have been promised jobs, land and cash.
One of NATO's largest assaults in Afghanistan since the start of the war, under way in the south, is aimed at driving the Taliban from their last big stronghold in the country's most violent province to make way for Afghan authorities to take over.
The assault tests U.S. President Barack Obama's strategy of sending 30,000 more troops to seize insurgent-held areas before a planned 2011 troop drawdown begins.
NATO and Afghan troops have hit pockets of stiff resistance in Marjah, the focus of the assault, and may need another month to fully secure the area, a NATO commander said on Thursday.
To make his point about the importance of securing peace, Karzai held up a picture in parliament of a little girl whose entire family was killed during the offensive.
If a little girl is to collect the dead bodies of family members, you can guess in what situation we are in now, he said.
(For more Reuters coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, see: here)
(Editing by Michael Georgy)