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US official in talks with Iraqi insurgents: report

Reuters | December 5 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. ambassador to Iraq is holding talks with Iraqi nationalist insurgents and the Sunnis they represent, Time magazine reported on Sunday.

Time quoted U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad as saying "We will intensify the engagement, interaction and discussion with them." He said reaching out to Sunnis regarding their "legitimate concerns" makes sense because of rifts between the nationalist and al Qaeda camps in the insurgency.

Asked about the report on CNN's "Late Edition," National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said U.S. officials are "not going to have contact with people who have blood on their hands." But he said the officials have had contacts with Sunni groups for some time.

Hadley said the ambassador was trying to convince Sunnis that democratization will succeed and that "the Sunnis have a place in a democratic Iraq and they need to step forward now, to take that place by participating in the elections."

Hadley said Khalilzad is also authorized to have "very low level" talks with Iranian officials in Baghdad "for the very limited purpose of making clear to the Iranians that we are seeing Iranian equipment and technology showing up, in Iraq, in the hands of people that are attacking the coalition, and that this is unacceptable." He is not dealing with the full range of U.S.-Iranian issues, Hadley said.

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