Karzai, new US envoy hold first meeting

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The United States' new special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan held his first meeting in the job with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in London Tuesday, Afghan officials said.

Marc Grossman met Karzai during his first official trip since being appointed last month to take over from Richard Holbrooke, who died suddenly in December.

Karzai, who met the US official during a two-day visit to Britain, called for greater cooperation between Afghanistan, Washington and Pakistan during the meeting, a statement released by the presidential palace in Kabul said.

"The president wished Mr Grossman success in his new position and said that the government of Afghanistan hopes that cooperation between Afghanistan, America and Pakistan will further expand and the three countries succeed in overcoming the challenges caused by terrorism in the region," the statement said.

"In return, Mr Grossman pledged that he will try to expand relations and coordination in the activities of the three countries."

US officials declined to comment.

There are around 140,000 international troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, around two-thirds of them Americans.

Control of security in Afghanistan is due to pass from foreign forces to the Afghan army and police in 2014, with a limited international troop withdrawal due to start in some safer parts of Afghanistan from July.

In a speech on February 18 confirming Grossman's appointment, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed the need for a political solution to help end the war.

She said the Taliban could "rejoin Afghan society" if they met conditions such as renouncing violence and breaking ties with Al-Qaeda.

Grossman is also due to visit Jeddah, Kabul, Islamabad and Brussels during his tour.

© 2011 AFP

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