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UN Envoy Urges Obama To Talk To Taliban

UN special envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide

UN special envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide

PARIS (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama should start a dialogue with the Taliban in Afghanistan, a top United Nations envoy said in a newspaper interview on March 21.

Obama said earlier in March he was open to the idea of reaching out to moderate elements of the Taliban.

"I am favorable to that. Reconciliation is an essential element. But it is important to talk to the people who count," Kai Eide, the UN special envoy to Afghanistan told France's "Le Monde" newspaper.

"A fragmented approach to the insurgency will not work. You need to be ambitious and include all the Taliban movement," Eide said.

Any contact would have conditions for the radical Sunni Muslim movement including distancing themselves from Al-Qaeda, respecting the constitution, women's right to an education, and giving up armed combat, he said.

Afghanistan is suffering its worst violence since U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban in 2001, with the Islamist insurgency steadily increasing and spreading from the south and east to the outskirts of the capital, Kabul.

Eide said the process should be managed by Afghanistan but he was ready to play a part.

Asked whether he had been in contact with the Taliban, Eide said they had responded positively to "some of our humanitarian requests" and that it was possible to hold back the insurgency.

"I can no longer take this alarmist gloom by so many commentators who rarely set foot in Afghanistan. There are serious problems, but also important progress," he said.

The United States is adding 17,000 troops to the 38,000 it has in Afghanistan, and may send further reinforcements when a policy review by Obama's administration is finished.

Other countries have a total of about 30,000 soldiers helping the Kabul government under NATO and U.S. command.