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U.N. warns renewed Afghanistan peace push needs to be 'focused, coherent'

NEW YORK, March 23 (Reuters) - Renewed efforts by the United States and Russia to end the conflict in Afghanistan should be “focused and coherent” and complement peace talks between the Afghan government and insurgent Taliban in Qatar’s capital Doha, the U.N. special envoy on Afghanistan warned the Security Council on Tuesday.

“None of this can be resolved in the work of a moment, nor in a few meetings, no matter the location or format. Addressing these issues will require patience and commitment on all sides,” Deborah Lyons said.

With a May 1 deadline looming for the last 2,500 U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan - as agreed last year by the former Trump administration and the Taliban - Washington is seeking regional backing for a proposed interim government with power shared by the current Kabul authorities and insurgents.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the Security Council there was “growing international consensus on the need to accelerate the Afghan peace process.”

The United States is also pushing for a conference to be hosted by Turkey with U.N. involvement next month, which Thomas-Greenfield said was expected to “be complementary to and coordinated with the U.N. efforts and the ongoing Doha process.”

The Turkey conference follows a meeting of the Afghan government, Taliban, Russia, China, Pakistan and the United States in Moscow earlier this month.

“A number of member states have played a vital role of late in proposing new initiatives to reinvigorate the peace process,” Lyons said. “These initiatives must, however, be focused and coherent. Above all, they must reinforce rather than undermine the Afghanistan peace negotiations under way now in Doha.”

Lyons acknowledged the Doha talks had slowed but noted both parties had committed to remaining at the table.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has rejected the U.S. proposal for an interim government and plans instead to propose a new presidential election within six months, two senior government officials told Reuters.

The Taliban - fighting the foreign-backed government since being ousted from power by Afghan opponents and U.S. air strikes in late 2001 - has so far rejected a ceasefire and said it would not directly join an interim government.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York Editing by Matthew Lewis

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