Page last updated at 01:18 GMT, Saturday, 29 March 2008

Reach out to Taleban, says Browne

Des Browne
Mr Browne compared the Taleban to the Lebanese group Hezbollah

The UK should talk to elements within the Taleban who can be persuaded to change sides, Defence Secretary Des Browne has said in an interview.

Mr Browne said some of those fighting British troops in Afghanistan were driven by "self-interest rather than ideology" and could be won over.

He told the Daily Telegraph: "There's no question we should try to reach them. People have been switched."

But he insisted that there was no basis for any negotiations with al-Qaeda.

'Conflict resolution'

We have to get people who have previously been on the side of the Taleban to come onto the side of the government
Des Browne
Defence Secretary

In December 2007, a British and an Irish diplomat were expelled by the Afghan government following claims that the men had held talks with the Taleban in Helmand province.

In the interview, Mr Browne insisted that "the Taleban is a collective noun" and contained different strands, some of whom could be talked into supporting democracy.

He added: "We have to get people who have previously been on the side of the Taleban to come onto the side of the government."

"What you need to do in conflict resolution is to bring the people who believe that the answer to their political ambitions will be achieved through violence into a frame of mind that they accept that their political ambitions will be delivered by politics.

The Security Minister, Lord West, and ex-Downing Street chief of staff Jonathan Powell have both said the UK could hold discussions with al-Qaeda.

Mr Browne reiterated the government's position that such talks were out of the question.

But he compared the Taleban to the Lebanese paramilitary organisation Hezbollah, saying they contained individuals who were open to persuasion.


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