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U.S., NATO Back Taliban Talks

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (left) and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen arrive at a NATO defense and foreign ministers' meeting at alliance headquarters in Brussels.
Top U.S. and NATO officials have said they support the Afghan government's efforts to establish peace talks with the Taliban.

Speaking at a news conference in Brussels, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance was ready to support possible peace talks with the Taliban, but ruled out halting military operations against the Afghan insurgency.

He said while the NATO-led force was willing to provide "practical assistance" for reconciliation efforts, "we should continue our military operations" against the Taliban.

At the same press conference, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington would do "whatever it takes" to support Afghan President Hamid Karzai's push to reconcile with some elements of the Taliban, but acknowledged that it is a complex effort that may not work.

Gates said any reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban must be led by Afghans.

Clinton added that the United States supported what the Afghans were doing, but wasn't ready to make any judgment about how far the talks should go.

Afghan officials today requested NATO's support in clearing the way for a new peace initiative with the Taliban, including by halting military operations in areas where reconciliation talks could take place.

compiled from agency reports