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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday to formally designate the Pakistan-based Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist group, after U.S. officials accused it of high-profile strikes including last week's attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
"There is no question that the Haqqani network meets the standards for designation" as a foreign terrorist organization, Senator Dianne Feinstein wrote in a letter to Clinton.
"I repeat my request that the Haqqani network should be listed as an FTO, and ask that you respond in writing," Feinstein wrote.
Despite being one of the most lethal militant groups operating in Afghanistan, the Haqqani network is not on the official State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, which would subject it to additional sanctions.
The reason, officials and analysts say, is that some State Department officials had hoped the Haqqanis could be reconciled as part of Afghan peace talks between the government and insurgents.
Any such talks now seem unlikely at best. And U.S. officials said this week that the Haqqani network, backed by Pakistan's intelligence agency, was behind the September 13 embassy attack as well as an earlier truck bombing in Afghanistan's Wardak province that killed five Afghans and injured 77 U.S. troops.
A State Department spokeswoman declined any immediate response. "We don't comment on prospective designations," she said.
The Haqqani network, based in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area, is named after aging leader Jalaluddin Haqqani. The elder Haqqani was among the mujahideen leaders that fought Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and his group received CIA backing then.
Feinstein's letter repeats a request she made in May 2010 to list the Haqqani network and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, also known as the Pakistani Taliban.
The State Department listed the TTP in September 2010, months after evidence emerged that the group had links to Faizal Shahzad, who unsuccessfully tried to set off a car bomb in New York's Times Square.
Editing by Xavier Briand