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Russia Open To Moderate Taliban Contacts

Former Taliban fighters at a ceremony marking their surrender under a U.S.-backed Afghan government amnesty scheme
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia backs the idea of talks between Afghanistan's government and moderate elements of the Taliban, a senior Russian diplomat has told Interfax news agency.

U.S. President Barack Obama said in a newspaper interview published on March 7 that he was open to the idea of reaching out to moderate elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, where insurgent violence is at its highest since U.S.-led forces ousted the militant Islamist movement in late 2001.

"If the leadership of Afghanistan considers the establishment of contacts with the moderate wing of the Taliban movement necessary, the Russian side would not object to this on condition that they lay down their arms, recognize the constitution and the government of Afghanistan and renounce ties with Al-Qaeda," Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksei Borodavkin told Interfax.

The United States is expected to release a review of its own policy toward Afghanistan on March 27.

Analysts familiar with the region believe the United States must engage in dialogue with Taliban-led insurgents, if it is to succeed in Afghanistan.

The country has been governed by a U.S.-backed administration since the Taliban was overthrown following the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, but has faced a resurgent Taliban ahead of presidential elections due this August.