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Afghanistan Strikes Taliban Truce in Remote Northwest

The Afghan government said it has struck its first truce with local Taliban insurgents.

The deal was reached in the remote northwestern Badghis province as part of efforts to tighten security ahead of presidential elections set for August 20.

A spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the cease-fire was established Saturday. It was arranged after negotiations between local tribal elders and Taliban leaders.

Under the deal, insurgents have agreed to allow election candidates to set up offices without being attacked.

A presidential spokesman said the government hopes to replicate similar deals in other parts of the country.

But Taliban spokesmen denied the deal to Reuters and AFP news agencies.

The August 20 vote is a key test of U.S. and NATO-backed efforts to establish democracy in Afghanistan after decades of conflict. Mounting violence has raised fears that the voting will be marred by unrest.

On Sunday, Afghan officials said one of President Karzai's vice presidential running mates escaped unharmed after Taliban insurgents ambushed his convoy.

The officials said Mohammad Qasim Fahim, a former warlord and defense minister, was traveling in northern Kunduz province when insurgents opened fire.

Taliban attacks have made July the deadliest month for international troops in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.