Paris: French President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned a suicide bomber's assassination of Afghan ex-president Burhanuddin Rabbani as a "terrorist act of unbearable cowardice".

"The head of state condemns in the strongest possible terms this terrorist act of unbearable cowardice," said a presidency statement on Tuesday.

"The terrorists killed a man of peace, who worked with determination for the reconciliation of Afghans."

A Taliban suicide bomber with explosives hidden in his turban Tuesday killed Rabbani, 71, who was leading efforts to talk peace with insurgents.

The attacker had been invited into Rabbani's Kabul home with an accomplice because it was thought they were envoys bringing "special messages" from the Taliban.

The bomb was detonated as the attacker hugged Rabbani -- head of Afghanistan's High Peace Council established last year by President Hamid Karzai -- in greeting.

His death is the most high-profile political assassination since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the Taliban from power.
Sarkozy offered his condolences to Rabbani's family, Karzai and the people of Afghanistan.

"In these testing times, France reiterates its determination to fight the scourge of terrorism relentlessly on the side of the Afghans and to support, with equal vigour, the cause of peace and reconciliation."

Some 4,000 French troops are based mostly in the mountainous Kapisa region supporting the 130,000-strong NATO-led effort to battle Taliban rebels and to build up and train the Afghan forces.

Seventy-five French soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2001.