Taliban could have place in Afghan politics: U.K.

Taliban fighters can win a role in Afghanistan's future if they renounce violence, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Wednesday.

Taliban fighters can win a role in Afghanistan's future if they renounce violence, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Wednesday as he pledged a long-term troop presence and aid commitments for the country.

Brown told lawmakers in London that Britain would support efforts by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to bring former insurgents into mainstream politics.

"If they are prepared to renounce violence and abide by the constitution and respect basic human rights, then there is a place for them in the legitimate society and economy of Afghanistan," Brown told the House of Commons.

He said Britain would not hold direct talks with ex-Taliban fighters, but would support the attempts by Karzai's officials to widen Afghanistan's political sphere.

Brown also urged neighbouring countries to do more to help political reconciliation in Afghanistan.

"Iran, too, must start to play a more constructive role," he said.

Britain is helping to identify members of the Taliban — particularly mid-level commanders — who are ready to take part in mainstream politics, a senior government official told reporters.

He spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with government policy.

Britain believes 10 to 12 people are co-ordinating the Taliban insurgency, meeting in Pakistan's tribal areas and in the Pakistani city of Quetta, the senior official said. He said these are the leaderswho should be arrested.

7,800 British troopsto remain inAfghanistan

Brown said Britain will keep about 7,800 troops in Afghanistan for the long term, without specifying a limit on how long soldiers could stay. Some British military chiefs have suggested troops will be required for decades.

The prime minister told lawmakers a rising number of newly trained Afghan soldiers — expected to reach 70,000 next year — as well as European Union and NATO allies must do more to share the security burden.

NATO currently has a contingent of about 41,700 troops in Afghanistan, including roughly 2,500from Canada and 25,000 from the U.S.

"This progress must, I believe, now be matched by contributions from other counties in NATO, the EU and beyond,"Brown said.

Brown said Britain has pledged the equivalent of $920 million US in development aid from 2009 to 2012, aiming to strengthen Afghanistan's legal system.

However, Brown offered no new plans to tackle the country's booming narcotics trade. Officials said Britain opposes aerial spraying of poppy fields and a plan to buy farmers' crops so they can be destroyed or used for medicinal purposes.