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France to bolster Afghani contingent, says Times

Latest update : 2008-03-23

According to British daily The Times, French President Nicolas Sarkozy will pledge an extra 1,000 French troops to Afghanistan when he meets Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London next week.

President Nicolas Sarkozy will tell British Prime Minister Gordon Brown during a state visit next week that he plans to send an extra 1,000 French soldiers to Afghanistan, the Times reported Saturday.

One anonymous senior minister told the paper that Britain's Ministry of Defence is working on the assumption that Sarkozy will reveal a deployment of "slightly more than 1,000 troops to the eastern region" to fight the Taliban.

Sarkozy wants to underline his commitment to NATO during the visit but a formal announcement may not be made until a NATO summit in Bucharest next month, the paper said.

The United States has strongly and consistently urged other NATO countries to bolster their troop contributions in Afghanistan, charging that some nations are not pulling their weight.

And Paris has already suggested that it might respond by increasing its current 1,600-strong deployment to the NATO-led force.

Sarkozy said in August last year that he wanted to renew the NATO military alliance, prompting some experts to speculate he could end the French boycott of NATO's integrated military command started by president Charles de Gaulle in 1966.

Anonymous French diplomatic sources quoted by the Times said that no final decision had been made and the paper added Sarkozy was still considering whether he wanted the troops to go to the south or the east of Afghanistan.

Sarkozy is visiting Britain for a two-day state visit from Wednesday next week.

On the day of his arrival, he will make a speech to both houses of parliament, a rare honour for a foreign leader.

Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy will be the guests of Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle outside London on Wednesday night at a banquet in his honour.

The president will have talks with Brown at Downing Street on Thursday, ahead of a summit at Arsenal football club's Emirates stadium in north London, while their respective wives are expected to lunch together the same day.

It will be the first full-scale state visit by a French president in 12 years.
 

Date created : 2008-03-22

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