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Pressure on Afghan government to reach a peac -

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TONY EASTLEY: The leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan are set to meet in London today as they again try to kick-start peace talks with the Taliban.

Pakistan is regarded as a key backer of the Taliban and its support will be needed in order to get the militants to the bargaining table.

The Afghan president Hamid Karzai is expected to ask his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to prevent the Taliban from using Pakistan as a base to launch attacks across the border.

The prospects for success are slim. A similar summit in London earlier this year failed.

This report from South Asia correspondent Michael Edwards.

(Sound of child crying)

MICHAEL EDWARDS: These are the cries of a six-year-old girl being treated for wounds in hospital after a bomb blew up the minivan she was travelling in along a road in eastern Afghanistan. Her family was on its way to a wedding. The governor of Ghazni Province, Qassim Desiwal, says the Taliban is responsible.

QASIM DESIWAL (voiceover): A minibus driving on the road was hit by a roadside bomb, which killed 18 people, including 14 women, three men and one child.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Dozens of civilians are caught in the crossfire between Afghan security forces and militants every few weeks. It's estimated the Taliban kills at least 400 Afghan soldiers or policemen every month.

Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, and the prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, are set to meet in London today to talk peace.

THOMAS RUTTIG: Was the first attempt to get Pakistan and Afghanistan together by the British government to get talks with the Taliban starting.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: That's Thomas Ruttig from the Afghan Analysts Network.

Pakistan is the Taliban's strongest backer - if peace is going to prevail, Pakistan needs to drag the militants to the negotiating table. But Thomas Ruttig isn't confident the latest round of discussions will achieve anything.

THOMAS RUTTIG: There's a regional game going on about influence over Afghanistan, look in Pakistan and Iran and a lot of other regional players and neighbours. And so the Pakistanis, frankly they are calculating in a very sober way. The Taliban are a trump card in that game and I don't see that they give that away.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: And a bid to start peace talks in Qatar earlier this year also failed when the Taliban tried to set up a self-styled embassy in exile. Afghan government sources say president Karzai will use the London summit to demand that Pakistan prevents the Taliban from launching attacks from safe-havens on its side of the border.

The trilateral meeting comes amid the backdrop of strained negotiations between Kabul and Washington over what forces will remain in Afghanistan once the bulk of Western troops leave in 2014.

A sticking point is whether Western soldiers will be exempt from prosecution under Afghan law.

Thomas Ruttig maintains an agreement will be reached on this issue as it's in both countries' best interests.

THOMAS RUTTIG: Well the arrangement is crucial for both sides, both for the US government, also for the Afghan government.

Although the rhetoric from Kabul sometimes points to another direction, they know that they are both dependent on the military aid and all kind of other aid from the US. So actually they cannot afford to throw the Americans out.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: And the pressure on the Afghan government to reach a peace negotiation with the Taliban is rising ahead of next year's presidential elections set for April.

This is Michael Edwards reporting for AM.