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Khalilzad speaking in Baghdad today (epa)
March 26, 2007 -- Washington's outgoing ambassador to Iraq says U.S. officials have held talks with groups linked to the insurgency in an effort to bring them into the political process.
Zalmay Khalilzad spoke at a farewell news conference in Baghdad today.
He is believed to be the first U.S. official to publicly acknowledge holding such talks, which he told "The New York Times" had begun in early 2006.
Khalilzad said the aim of the talks was to isolate Al-Qaeda, which he accused of trying to intimidate the Sunni insurgency into not cooperating with the Iraqi government and coalition forces.
Khalilzad also told reporters that insurgent and militia attacks had decreased by 25 percent since the start of a new U.S.-Iraqi security plan last month. It was not clear whether he was speaking about Baghdad or the country as a whole.
On March 22, a senior Iraqi official said the Iraqi government had been holding talks with some insurgent groups.
The White House has nominated Khalilzad to become the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
(AFP, AP, nytimes.com)