Peace talks between Pakistan and Taliban faltering - official

ISLAMABAD Thu Jan 19, 2012 3:10pm IST

Police and military officials stand near the rubble of a paramilitary building levelled by a suicide bomb attack in Bannu, northwest Pakistan December 24, 2011. REUTERS/Zahid Mahmmad

Police and military officials stand near the rubble of a paramilitary building levelled by a suicide bomb attack in Bannu, northwest Pakistan December 24, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Zahid Mahmmad

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ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Exploratory peace talks between Pakistan and al Qaeda-linked Taliban insurgents have made little progress, a senior security official told Reuters on Thursday.

The official said the group, seen as the biggest security threat to the strategic U.S. ally, had flatly rejected a demand that it work through tribal elders to reach a deal whereby fighters approach authorities and lay down their arms.

"They felt it would be humiliating," he said. "The talks are not making progress."

A total breakdown in talks, especially if it led to any new waves of Taliban suicide bombings or shootings, would likely make Pakistan's civilian government -- accused of widespread corruption and ineptitude -- even more unpopular.

It would also add pressure on the army in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed, strategic U.S. ally with one of the world's largest militaries.

The government is currently under severe pressure from the Supreme Court and Pakistan's generals, who have ruled the country for more than half of its 64-year history through a series of coups, or from behind the scenes.

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday adjourned a contempt hearing for Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in a case that could push him from office.

Gilani was in court to explain why he should not be charged with contempt for failing to re-open old corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. The government maintains Zardari has presidential immunity.

(Reporting by Michael Georgy; Editing by Ed Lane)

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