Russia warns West against chumming up with Taliban

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Russia on Thursday warned the West against seeking closer ties with Taliban leaders, saying it could help the militants to regain power in Afghanistan.

"Attempts by the Afghan leadership with the support of representatives of a number of Western countries to establish a negotiation process with leaders of the Taliban movement and to build on this foundation a mechanism of national reconciliation give us serious cause for concern," a spokesman for the Russian foreign ministry, Andrei Nesterenko, told a regular briefing.

"Possible selective and thorough work to return repentant Taliban militants to civilian life should by no means be replaced with a campaign to rehabilitate the entire Taliban movement, (and) revive a spirit of tolerance for the terrorist ideology the Taliban is preaching," Nesterenko said.

Such an attitude could help the militants return to power and restore a Taliban regime in Afghanistan, he added.

The warning comes amid media reports that Afghan President Hamid Karzai had held talks with the Taliban leadership and after Washington last month put General David Petraeus in charge of its faltering Afghan campaign.

Al-Jazeera television said last month Karzai had met with a top Al-Qaeda-linked Taliban leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, for face-to-face talks as a prelude to peace negotiations, a report his government angrily dismissed.

Petraeus, who replaced General Stanley McChrystal following his career-ending interview with Rolling Stone magazine, is known for his unorthodox negotiating tactics.

The New York Times recently suggested he might attempt to forge deals with senior Taliban militants.

The Taliban, who were in power between 1996 and 2001 before being toppled in a US-led invasion, have intensified their fight in recent years.

The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to bolster its supporters but became bogged down in a protracted and bloody struggle that lasted nearly a decade until the Soviet pullout in 1989.

© 2010 AFP

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