Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said that the US is in contact with the Taliban about a possible settlement to the war in Afghanistan.

Hamid Karzai said that an Afghan push towards peace talks, after nearly a decade of war, had not yet reached a stage where the government and insurgents were meeting, but their representatives had been in touch.

The US Embassy declined to comment directly on Karzai's assertion but said the United States supports Afghan reconciliation and has assisted Afghan government-led reintegration initiatives aimed at the Taliban.

The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, weeks after the 11 September attacks, to help oust the Taliban which had hosted al- Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden.

The Taliban regrouped and has been waging a fierce insurgency for years against the government, US troops and other Western allies in Afghanistan.

Mr Karzai was speaking the day after the United Nations Security Council split the UN sanctions list for Taliban and al-Qaeda figures into two, which envoys said could help induce the Taliban into talks on a peace deal in Afghanistan.

But despite hopes that talks with the Taliban could provide the political underpinning for a staged US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the discussions are still not at the stage where they can be a deciding factor.

Diplomats say there have been months of preliminary talks, but the US has never confirmed any contacts.

Meanwhile, 15 people have been killed in attacks in different parts of Afghanistan today.

Three suicide bombers dressed in army uniform attacked a police compound in the old city in Kabul, where they killed nine people including three policemen and five civilians.

It was the second major attack in the Afghan capital in under a month.

One attacker killed himself by detonating explosives at the gate, while the other two were shot dead by police.

Four Afghan private security guards protecting supply trucks for NATO-led troops were killed by two roadside bombs in Ander district of Ghazni province, southwest of Kabul, the deputy police commander for Ghazni province said.

Two other guards were also injured, the commander, Mohammad Hussain, said.

Two service members of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force were killed in separate insurgent attacks in southern Afghanistan, the coalition said in statements. It gave no other details.