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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 May 2007, 02:37 GMT 03:37 UK
Afghan Senate urges Taleban talks
Taleban fighters
Violence in Afghanistan has been on the rise
The Afghan Senate has called on the government in Kabul to open direct talks with native Taleban militants, and for attacks on them to stop.

The Senate passed a bill which will now go before the lower house and, if passed, to President Hamid Karzai.

The draft law distinguishes between Afghan members of the Taleban, and Pakistani and al-Qaeda fighters, which it says are the enemy of Afghanistan.

In the past the Taleban have rejected efforts to open negotiations.

The Senate said while efforts got under way to open talks, Nato-led military operations against the Taleban should cease.

"If the need arises for an operation, it should be carried out with co-ordination of the national army and police and with the consultation of the government of Afghanistan," the National Reconciliation Bill said.

It also said that when the Afghan army and national police force were up to full strength, a timetable should be drafted for coalition forces to leave the country.

Correspondents say the motion comes as public discontent is growing over the rising number of civilian casualties and the government's failure to improve the lives of most Afghans.

A spokeswoman for the Nato force in Afghanistan had no immediate response to the bill.

A spokesman said the US military was aware of the move but "it remains to be seen what impact it will have".

Resurgence

Violence in Afghanistan has returned to levels not seen since the Taleban were ousted in 2001.

More than 4,000 people were killed last year in fighting between militants and international-led forces.

Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, visiting neighbouring Pakistan, where many Taleban commanders are believed to be based, said force was not the only way to deal with the armed group.

"The final answer in Afghanistan will not be a military one and cannot be a military one," he said.

"The final answer in Afghanistan is reconstruction, development and nation-building."


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