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Make peace with the Taliban, village elders tell UN

Some village elders told visiting United Nations officials in Afghanistan on Tuesday that the international community should make peace with the Taliban and focus all of its efforts and money on rebuilding the country's infrastructure.

Some village elders told visiting United Nations officials in Afghanistan on Tuesday that the international community should make peace with the Taliban and focus all of its efforts and money on rebuilding the country's infrastructure.

A select group of Afghans met a UN Security Council delegation in the village of Qalat in the volatile southern province of Zabul.

The delegation has been in Afghanistan since Saturday to review the progress and challenges facing the country. It plans to visit provincial cities in the north and south.

Kenzo Oshima, Japan's ambassador to the UN and head of the delegation, told the crowd of elders that the ongoing war against the militants will be won and the UN will stand by Afghanistan as it works to rebuild.

"The United Nations is determined not to fail in Afghanistan," he said. "We would like you to know that the United Nations stands with you."

Oshima saidviolence, poverty and illiteracy continue to plague Afghanistan, but the international community will help the country overcome these problems.

But not all of the elders were convinced.

They said the focus of the international community in Afghanistan should not be on fighting the Taliban but on reconstruction and that more financial aid is needed to bring stability to the country after decades of war. Money should go into infrastructure, they said.

Earlier, the delegation toured a provincial reconstruction centre run by U.S. and Romanian soldiers. At the centre, local Afghans are being trained as police and paramedics.

The delegation also held a shura, or meeting, with Zabul's provincial governor and police chief.

In addition to Japan, the mission includes members from Argentina, Britain, Denmark, France, Greece, Qatar, Russia, Slovakia and the United States.

Country's advancements noted

At a news conference in Kabul, Oshima told reporters that Afghanistan has moved forward politically in the last five years. It now has a popularly elected president, a parliament and a supreme court. It also has more than five million children in school.

"We fully realize that this country faces daunting challenges," he said, butthe UN is committed to ensuring the country succeeds.

"We are here this time to assure and to demonstrate the international community's strong, continued commitment to support Afghanistan in its reconstruction and peace consolidation," he said.

Oshima said the Afghan people must do their part as well, however,to improve the country.

"People of Afghanistan deserve a peaceful life, a better life, a quieter life. People of Afghanistan deserve more schools, better roads, better health clinics and a better future," he said.

"The international community and the United Nations can assist, can help, the Afghan people to achieve these better lives and more education but it is in the hands of the Afghan people themselves."

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