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Afghan government, Taliban in talks

Published By United Press International
PARIS, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Leaders of Afghanistan's competing factions, including the Taliban, are having informal talks outside Paris in an effort to end the Afghan war, officials said.

The talks began Thursday and were expected to last two days, The New York Times reported. They are being trumpeted as the first time Taliban members have sat down with former enemies from a collection of militias that fought Taliban rule in the 1990s.

Members of the Afghan government are also in attendance, as well as leaders of Hezb-e-Islami, an insurgent faction independent of the Taliban, the Times reported.

Abdullah Abdullah, an opposition politician and former presidential candidate, said he didn't expect much to come of the negotiations.

The Taliban "will come there, and they will make their own decisions clear," Abdullah said from Kabul. "I don't want to be pessimistic, but I don't want to raise expectations out of the meeting."

Taliban representative Shahabuddin Delawar was going to Paris "to shed light on our stances and explain our official position and policies to the international community," said Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the insurgents.

"We want to explain it directly through our own official representatives to the international community, while in the past our position has been presented by the enemies, who were trying to display a wrong image," he said.
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Tour de France concludes in Paris
Race winner Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain (C) stands between second place finisher Christopher Froome of Great Britain (L) and third place finisher Vincenzo Nibali of Italy on the presentation podium following the final stage of the Tour de France in Paris on July 22, 2012. Wiggins of Great Britain became that country's first ever overall winner of the Tour de France. UPI/David Silpa