UNITED NATIONS - Envoys from Russia, the United States and Afghanistan's six neighbors intend to meet in the Afghan capital Kabul next week as part of the global effort to help rebuild the central Asian nation after the collapse of its Taliban leadership, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.
The meeting, to take place at the ambassadorial level, would be the second by the so-called ``Six Plus Two'' group - composed of Afghanistan's neighbors China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan plus Moscow and Washington - since the Sept. 11 hijack attacks on the United States.
The group has been meeting for years in the international search for a political solution to the crisis in Afghanistan. But its members have been speaking with more of a unified voice since the Taliban's collapse following a U.S. military campaign.
Washington began bombing Afghanistan three months ago, accusing the Taliban of shielding Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network, blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Kabul meeting has been approved by Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. special representative for Afghanistan, the U.S. official said. There was no word on the meeting from the United Nations and no specific date was given.
Before the U.S. war in Afghanistan, the group was repeatedly criticized by U.N. officials - who helped organize it - including Brahimi, for arming combatants in Afghanistan while professing to talk peace.
But on Nov. 12 as the Afghan Northern Alliance advanced on Kabul, foreign ministers of the eight nations met during the U.N. General Assembly session to discuss a broad-based government to replace the Taliban and said the United Nations should play a central role in the transition process.
Brahimi has proposed that the group be expanded to 21 nations, by adding India, France, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Turkey, Britain, Egypt, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. But there has been no word about whether the group would be enlarged.