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Aide Says Fugitive Afghan Hekmatyar Hasn't Contacted U.S.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in 2001
KABUL (Reuters) - Fugitive pro-Taliban insurgency leader and former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has not made contact with the United States to discuss peace talks, despite reports an envoy had gone to Washington, his spokesman has said.

More than seven years after the Taliban was overthrown in a U.S.-led invasion, some Western politicians say it may not be possible to win the war militarily and that talks with moderates may be the best way to achieve peace.

Hekmatyar's spokesman Haroon Zarghon rejected Afghan and foreign media reports this week that an envoy had met U.S. officials in Washington in a move to show willingness by the veteran leader for peace talks.

"No one from Hekmatyar's side has met with U.S. officials as reported," Zarghon told Reuters by satellite phone from an undisclosed location.

Zarghon said Hekmatyar, a veteran of the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, was open to the idea of talks but the withdrawal of foreign forces was a vital pre-condition.

"We have three conditions for negotiations: unconditional pull-out of foreign forces, formation of an interim government involving all sides, and holding of free elections under its supervision," he said.

"If the expulsion of foreign troops is on the agenda of talks, we are ready to hold them with any one," he added.

Hekmatyar, who leads a force separate from the allied Taliban fighting U.S. and NATO-led troops in Afghanistan, carries a U.S. bounty for his capture or death.

His followers are mostly active in northeastern Afghanistan but his whereabouts are not known, like the leaders of the Taliban.

The Taliban have also made the withdrawal of foreign forces a key condition for any talks.