Page last updated at 08:38 GMT, Monday, 27 July 2009 09:38 UK

Afghanistan 'agrees Taliban deal'


The Afghan government has agreed a truce with Taliban insurgents in the north-western province of Badghis ahead of elections next month, officials say.

The Taliban have pledged not to attack voting centres and to hand key areas to government forces, officials say. There has been no word from the militants.

The government says it hopes to replicate the deal in other provinces.

The moves comes as the UK is emphasising that more must be done to engage moderate members of the Taliban.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband announced the shift of emphasis in the UK's Afghanistan strategy in a speech to Nato.

He stressed the Afghan government must do more to talk to moderate members of the Taliban as part of a broader political process.

Violence in Afghanistan has escalated in recent months as UK and US forces launched a full-scale offensive against Taliban militants in the south of the country.

Taliban engagement

But Badghis has seen comparatively little violence in recent months.

The BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says the province, which borders Turkmenistan, has been a launching point for attacks in the nearby provinces of Ghor and Herat.

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband: 'We need to deny insurgents the space to operate'

In November 2008 about 200 militants attacked an Afghan army convoy in Badghis, killing at least 13 Afghan soldiers and policemen.

Presidential spokesman Siamak Hirawi told the BBC the agreement in Badghis also stipulated that the Taliban would allow the reconstruction of the main highway.

If the Taliban confirm they have agreed to the terms of the ceasefire and if the deal is repeated in other provinces, then it could mark a significant new stage in the conflict, correspondents say.

But it would not be the first time the Afghan government has tried to engage the Taliban.

In October 2008, President Hamid Karzai's brother confirmed a BBC report that he had met former members of the Taliban in Saudi Arabia as part of a first step towards peace talks.

There are grave concerns about security across the country ahead of presidential and provincial council elections on 20 August.

Mr Karzai faces about 40 challengers for the post of president.

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