Afghan president criticizes timing of Pakistani Taliban leader’s killing

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai has criticised the “unsuitable” timing of the U.S. killing of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud and expressed hope it will not derail regional peace efforts.

Karzai told a visiting U.S. Congress delegation that the drone strike “took place at an unsuitable time but he hoped as a result the peace process is not harmed,” his office said in a statement released late Sunday.

The U.S. action against Mehsud also angered the Pakistani government, with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar accusing Washington of “scuttling” peace moves.

Karzai has been seeking to open peace talks with the Afghan Taliban to end 12 years of war, but the Islamist militants have refused to negotiate with the president's appointees, dismissing him as a puppet of Washington.

The Pakistan government has also been exploring peace moves with the Pakistani Taliban, who are separate but linked to the Afghan group.

Karzai, who recently returned from talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in London, said fraught relations between Kabul and Islamabad had improved.

“The president said the meeting was one of the best with the Pakistani side and said he hoped that the attack the other day on the leader of the Pakistani Taliban was not harming the peace process in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” his statement said.

Pakistan was a key backer of the hardline 1996-2001 Taliban regime in Kabul and is believed to shelter some of the movement's top leaders.

The opening of a Taliban office in Qatar in June was meant to lead to talks, but instead it enraged Karzai after it was styled as an embassy for a government-in-exile.

Afghan officials have said that Afghanistan expects Pakistan to stop militants crossing the border to launch attacks in the run-up to the April presidential elections for Karzai's successor.