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NATO chief for talks with Taliban

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the new head of NATO, said in an interview published on Saturday that he would support dialogue with "moderate groups on the outer reaches of the Taliban."

world Updated: Aug 01, 2009 23:49 IST

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the new head of NATO, said in an interview published on Saturday that he would support dialogue with "moderate groups on the outer reaches of the Taliban."

"There is certainly a hard core that is impossible to reach any deals with. They have only respect for military powers," he told the Danish newspaper Politiken.

"But there are groups that you can talk with to try and bring about some kind of reconciliation with the Afghan community," he said.

Rasmussen's comments echoed British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander who last week struck a more conciliatory tone on engaging with Taliban willing to renounce violence

"I certainly don't know why one should strike any agreements with those who are killing our soldiers. We are talking about other groups located on the outer fringes of the Taliban," said the new NATO secretary general, who takes up his new role on Monday.

"We obviously want to co-operate with those who want to contribute to a safer situation in Afghanistan and to create a framework for reconstruction and economic and social development," he added.

His comments followed one of the deadliest months for foreign forces since they arrived in late 2001 to remove the Taliban regime and root out Al-Qaida operatives.

Insurgent attacks have stepped up across Afghanistan in recent years, with the violence peaking just weeks ahead of the August elections -- a milestone on the country's rocky road to democracy.

There are around 90,000 international troops under the NATO military alliance and US-led coalition command in Afghanistan, fighting alongside Afghan forces against the Taliban and other radical groups.

Last year, then Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell said Britain would support efforts to reach out to Taliban elements prepared to turn their backs on violence and embrace politics.

At end of 2007, two British diplomats were expelled from Afghanistan, accused of contacting the Taliban.