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Afghanistan Planning Second Round of Talks with Ex-Taliban


Afghanistan's foreign minister says a second round of talks is likely with former top officials of the fundamentalist Taliban. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kabul that U.S. and NATO officials are giving conditional support to such discussions between the Afghan government and insurgents.

Afghanistan is looking to hold a second round of discussions with former members of the Taliban.

During a news conference in Kabul, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, was asked to comment on reports that a continuation of Saudi mediated talks held last month will take place soon in Dubai.

The foreign minister says no place or time has been set for further discussions, but the unofficial delegation that held talks in Saudi Arabia will work out the logistics with the Saudis.

Spanta added that it is the government's responsibility to pursue such talks.

But Kabul and the Taliban have emphasized that such meetings should not be construed as peace talks.

In recent months, various top military officials and diplomats have stated that peace cannot be achieved in Afghanistan solely on the battlefield.

The Afghan government says it is willing to negotiate with the Taliban if they recognize the country's constitution, lay down their weapons and join the political process.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Patrick Moon, while visiting Kabul, expressed optimism the insurgents might accept those conditions.

"The Taliban does not pose a strategic threat to the government of Afghanistan," said Moon. "They do not offer a vision or a future for the people of Afghanistan. So it is reasonable to expect that you could have a Taliban which decides that their future lies with what the government is offering."

A movement toward possible peace talks comes at a time when violence in the country has surged to record levels since the Taliban were forcibly driven from power seven years ago.

There are about 70,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, under the command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or the United States.

The chairman of NATO's Military Committee, at the conclusion of a three-day tour of Afghanistan, said increasing violence is not a surprise.

Italian Navy Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola characterizes the mounting Taliban attacks as a result of the Afghanistan National Army and police working with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force to fill a power vacuum.

"Nothing was happening because the law was not there," he said. "Now that the law - in the form of the ANA [Afghan National Army], the ANP [Afghan National Police], with the support of ISAF - is going there you see the bad guys starting to make violence."

A NATO spokesman in Brussels says it is the alliance's view that it is up to the Kabul government to decide whether it is prudent to hold talks with the Taliban.

Police in the southern city of Kandahar are blaming Taliban insurgents for the death of one of their officers when a remote-controlled bomb loaded on a donkey exploded. Two other policemen and a civilian were wounded.

The U.S. military says three soldiers of the American-led coalition force were killed in the western part of the country when a bomb placed by insurgents struck their vehicle.


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