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Afghan president says peace coming but outsiders can't decide future

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Afghan president says peace coming but outsiders can't decide future
People take part in morning prayers to celebrate the first day of the Muslim holiday of the Eid al-Adha, in Kabul, Afghanistan August 11, 2019.REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail   -   Copyright  MOHAMMAD ISMAIL(Reuters)
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KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday peace would come to his country but he appeared to question an expected deal between the United States and the Taliban, saying Afghanistan would decide its future, not outsiders.

Ghani and his U.S.-backed government have not been involved in months of negotiations between the United States and the Taliban on an agreement for U.S. troops to withdraw in exchange for a Taliban promise that Afghanistan would not be used by international militants to plot attacks.

While the pact is expected to include a Taliban commitment to open power-sharing talks with Afghan rivals, it is not expected to include a Taliban ceasefire with the government, leading to fears the Taliban will fight on when U.S. forces leave.

“Peace is a desire for each Afghan and peace will come, there shouldn’t be any doubt about it,” Ghani told a gathering for prayers marking the Eid al-Adha Muslim festival.

“But we want a peace in which each Afghan has dignity. We don’t want a peace in which Afghans wouldn’t have dignity. We don’t want a peace that would cause our people to leave their country.”

The Taliban and the United States have both reported significant progress in their negotiations, with one Taliban official saying a pact could be signed this week after the Eid holiday.

An agreement would allow U.S. President Donald Trump to achieve his aim of ending a war launched in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

The Taliban do not recognise the Kabul government and have refused to talk to it.

Ghani made no reference to the United States or to the expected U.S.-Taliban pact but said Afghans should decide their fate, not outside powers, even if they were allies.

“Our future cannot be decided outside, whether in the capital cities of our friends or neighbours. The fate of Afghanistan will be decided here in Afghanistan,” he said.

He also said a presidential election, scheduled for Sept. 28, in which he hopes to win a second term, was essential.

The Taliban have denounced the election as a sham and threatened to attack rallies. There has been speculation that the vote could be postponed if the United States struck the deal with the militants.

“The Afghan people want a strong, efficient and responsible government, and this is not possible without elections,” Ghani said.

(Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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