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Afghanistan ready to meet with Taliban

Afghanistan ready to meet with Taliban
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton take part in the group photo at the conclusion of the International Conference on Afghanistan at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Kabul on July 20, 2010. A major international conference in Kabul ended on July 20 calling for at least 50 percent of development aid for the country to be channeled through the Afghan government's budget within two years. UPI/Hossein Fatemi | License Photo

KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Constructive peace talks between Taliban leaders and Afghanistan might not be too far off, a senior NATO official said.

NATO forces in Afghanistan granted Taliban leaders safe passage to participate in peace talks with the "highest levels of the Afghan government," The Washington Post reported Thursday.

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It is the first time in years leading segments of the Taliban insurgency have agreed to explore the possibility of a settlement, the newspaper said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai named 70 prominent Afghans to take part in peace negotiations, and the group held its first formal meeting in Kabul last week.

The U.N. Security Council urged "all Afghan parties and groups to engage constructively in peaceful political dialogue."

Karzai's peace council members said they don't have a clear idea of their role in negotiations, and said contacts with the Taliban will continue outside the council, through Karzai's family or through Afghan intelligence officials.

"Something is better than nothing," said Abdul Hakim Mujahid, a council member and the Taliban's former representative to the United Nations.

Karzai stressed to the council it would be independent, and that the government would support its decisions, the report said.

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