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Taliban leaders 'tired of war'

Britain's former ambassador to Afghanistan has said some Taliban leaders appeared to be tired of the war and were interested in a possible reconciliation with the government.

But Mark Sedwill, now Nato's senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, told reporters in Washington that it would be a mistake to think that a settlement could be completed quickly.

He did not identify the Taliban leaders that he said had quietly shown an interest in reconciliation, but said the process of reconciliation was still at an "embryonic" stage.

Mr Sedwill said that some senior leaders of the uprising had accepted political outreach from the Afghan government.

"There are significant leaders who seem to be weary of the fight and seem to be willing to contemplate a future within the mainstream" of the Afghanistan political process, he said.

"What that will amount to is very difficult to say at this stage. There are some senior members of the insurgency who are genuinely seen reaching out - or accepting, actually, the outreach from the Afghan government - who are seeking a way to reconcile."

President Hamid Karzai has said he will talk to militants who renounce violence, sever ties to terrorists and embrace the Afghan constitution.

Publicly, the Taliban has insisted it will not negotiate until foreign troops leave the country, yet there are indications that back-door discussions have occurred.

In Kabul on Tuesday, the Afghan government set up a 70-member peace council that formalises efforts already under way to reconcile with top Taliban leaders and lure insurgent foot soldiers off the battlefield.

Mr Sedwill said he was visiting Washington as part of preparations for a Nato summit meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, in November, at which allied leaders are to consider the way ahead in Afghanistan.

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