U.S. hopes to get Taliban peace talks 'back on track'

WASHINGTON Mon Jun 24, 2013 2:17pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is still hoping to have peace talks with the Taliban and Afghan officials but is not sure it will be possible, a U.S. State Department spokesman said on Monday.

Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said at a media briefing that there have been hopeful signs for the talks.

"We want to see if we can get it back on track," he said. "We don't know whether that's possible."

A new date for discussions has not yet been set and James Dobbins, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, has not met with Taliban representatives, Ventrell said.

The comments come as U.S. official continue to press the Taliban to revive the peace effort, which was set to begin last with preliminary discussion but was stalled amid objections from the Afghan government.

The main goal is to get Afghans talking to other Afghans, although the U.S. had been open to meeting with the Taliban, Ventrell said.

"We're still open to having that meeting," he told reporters, adding that Afghan and Taliban representatives could met first if they wanted.

On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on the Taliban to revive the effort to end Afghanistan's 12-year-old war.

The fundamentalist Islamic group was pushed out of power in Afghanistan by the U.S. invasion that followed the al Qaeda attacks on U.S. targets on September 11, 2001. It has since led an insurgency to overthrow the Afghan government and oust foreign troops.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bill Trott)

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