Karzai marks Eid with call for peace
* Bodies of six Italian soldiers killed in Afghanistan arrive in Rome
KABUL: Afghan President Hamid Karzai extended an olive branch on Sunday to Taliban militants trying to overthrow his Western-backed government as he marked the Eidul Fitr.
Karzai, currently beleaguered by fraud accusations following the August 20 election, also extended condolences to the families of civilian victims of a massive suicide attack that killed six Italian soldiers on Thursday.
“On this auspicious day once again I ask all those Afghan brothers who are unhappy or are in others' hands to stop fighting, destroying their own land and killing their own people,” he said.
“They must come to their houses and live in peace in their own country,” he said, speaking to reporters at the presidential palace in Kabul.
Karzai has said, should he win another five years in the country's top job, he will launch peace talks with the leaders of the Taliban insurgency that has intensified in recent months to deadly effect. His comments followed a statement by Taliban leader Mullah Omar warning foreign troops of imminent and unequivocal defeat. Karzai is ahead in preliminary results, with almost 55 percent of the vote, though hundreds of thousands of ballots may be recounted and could force him into a run-off against his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, on 27.8 percent.
Karzai made passing comment on the election and the congratulations he received last week on his “re-election” from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but refused to answer questions about the likelihood of a run-off.
The president has been accused of rigging the vote, with European Union observers saying last week that of 1.5 million suspect ballots, 1.1 million had been cast for Karzai, and 300,000 for Abdullah.
Italian soldiers: Separately, the bodies of six Italian soldiers killed in one of the deadliest suicide attacks targeting NATO troops in Afghanistan arrived in Italy on Sunday in an emotional homecoming at Rome's Ciampino airport. Family of the dead, President Giorgio Napolitano and other political leaders were present as the C-130 military plane carrying the tricolour-draped coffins with their remains touched down at 0730 GMT.
The six coffins were blessed by a priest before a military ceremony that was also attended by Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa and the leaders of the upper and lower houses of parliament, Renato Schifani and Gianfranco Fini. Earlier a special flight brought home four Italians who had been wounded in the attack that cost the lives of their comrades. The four who are not critically wounded were taken by ambulance to a military hospital in Rome. afp