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US confirms talking to Taliban

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has confirmed that the US is holding "outreach" talks with members of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"There's been outreach on the part of a number of countries, including the United States," Mr Gates told CNN, without naming other countries involved.

See the BBC's report here.

"I would say that these contacts are very preliminary.

"My own view is that real reconciliation talks are not likely to be able to make any substantive headway until at least this winter."

Mr. Gates, who will leave office at the end of the month, said the first step had been to ensure the contacts were genuine and influential Taliban members.

Afghan President Karzai said Saturday that peace talks involving Afghan officials, the US and other "foreign militaries" were taking place and were "going well".

The UK said that with the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, it was time for the Taliban to "positively engage" in the political process, and that it supported Afghan efforts to reintegrate insurgents who were "prepared to renounce violence, cut links with terrorist groups, and accept the constitution".

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