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ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan will only hold peace talks with Taliban insurgents if they lay down their arms first, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Tuesday. "The minimum agenda is that they give up arms and come forward and then there will be talks. But if they think they will keep Kalashnikovs in their hands and also hold talks, that will not happen," he told reporters.
Both sides have indicated recently they were open to talks.
The Tehrik-e-Taliban, or Taliban Movement of Pakistan, have been waging a campaign of attacks including suicide bombings across the South Asian nation since 2007 in a bid to topple the U.S.-backed government.
A series of army offensives against Pakistani Taliban strongholds along the rugged mountainous border with Afghanistan has failed to contain the group, which is close to al Qaeda and is the biggest security threat to Pakistan.
Last year, the United States added the Pakistani Taliban to its list of foreign terrorist organizations and set rewards of up to $5 million for information leading to the capture of two of its leaders.
Past peace deals with the group failed to improve security, and instead enabled the group to build up strength and impose its harsh version of Islam in areas ceded to it.
(Reporting by Zeeshan haider and Qasim Nauman; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Robert Birsel)
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