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COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - NATO will support a political deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban only if it respects the constitutional rights of women, the alliance's secretary-general said on Friday.
"The Afghan government is trying hard to engage with those Taliban who are willing to stop fighting," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a speech to a conference on women and security.
"My position, and the position of all the allies, is very clear: we will never support any political deal that sacrifices the rights that Afghan women now have enshrined in the constitution," Rasmussen said.
He said it was a good sign that women are serving on the council formed to manage the reconciliation process.
"In a country as deeply conservative as Afghanistan, that is real progress," Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen, a former prime minister of Denmark, said progress had been made in women's rights in Afghanistan, with more girls in schools, more women in parliament, more women setting up and running businesses or joining the police.
More Afghan women have access to health care, he said.
"And all this shows -- in very concrete terms -- the progress in Afghanistan for women's rights," he said.
Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Peter Graff