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U.N. head Ban to attend Afghanistan conference


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa May 12, 2010. REUTERS/Blair Gable
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa May 12, 2010. REUTERS/Blair Gable

KABUL (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will attend a conference to be held in Kabul in July to bolster international support for President Hamid Karzai's plans to reintegrate Taliban combatants.

Ban made the pledge during a personal call with Karzai on Saturday, the president's office said in a statement.

The July 20 conference is a follow-up to a London summit in January, when donors pledged some $160 million for Afghanistan's plans to reintegrate and create jobs for Taliban fighters who renounce violence.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other Western diplomats are also expected to attend the Kabul talks. They will follow a grand assembly of Afghans on May 29, when Karzai will seek advice on how to reconcile with the insurgents.

Karzai's government will present a draft to the assembly for making peace with the insurgents, which includes removing the names of militants leaders from a U.N. sanction list and offering them asylum in a third country.

Nine years after U.S.-led troops toppled their government, the Taliban have made a comeback and have inflicted heavy losses on foreign and Afghan forces.

Washington hopes to start the process of withdrawing its soldiers in July next year. The Taliban have repeatedly turned down past peace overtures from Karzai, saying they group will engage in peace talks only when all of the 140,000 foreign troops leave Afghanistan.

(Reporting by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Paul Tait)

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