Uzbek leader says in daily contact with Taliban to ensure security

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Uzbek president Shavkat Mirziyoyev attends a news conference with his Kazakh counterpart Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in Tashkent, Uzbekistan April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov

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TASHKENT, Aug 27 (Reuters) - The Uzbek government is maintaining daily contact with the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan to help ensure Uzbekistan's security, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev was quoted by state news agency UzA as saying on Friday.

The hardline Islamist Taliban have swept back into power as U.S.-led foreign forces complete a withdrawal from Afghanistan by an Aug. 31 deadline after 20 years of war, triggering the collapse of the Western-backed Kabul government.

"We are in contact with the Taliban every day," the deputy chief of UzA quoted Mirziyoyev as saying in his Telegram channel. "I am ready for any dialogue in order to ensure there is no fire in the direction of Uzbekistan."

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Mirziyoyev spoke after at least one Islamic State suicide bomber killed 85 people outside Kabul airport, where thousands of Afghans fearful of the Taliban have massed in hope of evacuation before all foreign forces leave. read more

He said Tashkent's analysis of the situation in Afghanistan had prompted the government to start talks with the Taliban as early as two years ago.

Hundreds of retreating Afghan soldiers crossed the border into Uzbekistan in July and August as the Taliban advanced in the security vacuum left by departing coalition forces. Tashkent denied, however, that any senior Afghan political leaders were in Uzbekistan.

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Reporting by Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov Writing by Olzhas Auyezov Editing by Mark Heinrich

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