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Afghan conflict to dominate NATO talks

Video by Shona BHATTACHARYYA

Latest update : 2009-04-03

NATO leaders will meet for talks in France and Germany in connection with the 60th anniversary of the trans-Atlantic organization. US President Barack Obama will use the summit to raise support for his new Afghan war plan.

AFP - President Barack Obama will Friday leap from one crucible of crisis leadership to another, swapping economic woes for a NATO summit featuring his effort to showcase his new Afghan war plan to US allies.
   
Obama will wear the mantle of US commander in chief overseas for the first time after leaving London after the G20 talks for NATO 60th anniversary talks in France and Germany steeped in history and questions over the alliance's future role.
   

The US leader, sideswiped by successive crises in just over two months in power, will use the summit to enlist support from sometimes skeptical NATO allies for a bold new effort to crush Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
   
Officials bill Obama's escalation of the war, largely using thousands of extra US troops, is a key test of the alliance's capacity to expand into civilian support roles and to meet the test of the new post Cold-War era.
   
Also on Friday, Obama will hold direct talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Strasbourg, a day after encountering him here at the G20 economic summit which agreed a raft of reforms designed to kick-start global growth.
   
The president will also take a page out his campaign playbook, holding a town hall meeting for students and local residents in a Strasbourg sports arena -- similar to hundreds he has held across the United States.
   
Later, Obama will cross to the German side of the border to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has substantial influence in both the G20 framework and the military alliance, for talks on bilateral and NATO issues.
   
On Saturday, on the latest leg of a European tour also including a US-European Union summit in Prague and a trip to Turkey, Obama will join other leaders of the western alliance at the formal summit.
   
The United States has pressed its NATO allies for more troops and broader operating criteria for combat missions in Afghanistan for months, including during the former administration of George W. Bush.
   
During his election campaign last year, Obama made clear he would call on US allies for more manpower.
   
But top US officials admit they are unlikely to get large scale troop pledges, though they expect contributions to support operations and for the civilian and developmental side of the new strategy announced by Obama last week.
   
Obama late Thursday hailed sweeping action agreed by G20 nations as a "turning point" for the global economy but warned after his debut summit they did not guarantee swift recovery.
   
Seizing a prime leadership role at the crunch meeting of developed and developing nations, Obama hailed "unprecedented" measures agreed to straighten a warped regulatory regime that helped trigger the crisis.
   
But the new US president warned he would continue to fight America's corner in the pursuit of economic rebirth and expected other leaders to do the same, despite their pledge to join together in the long haul back to recovery.
   
"We finished a very productive summit that will be, I believe, a turning point in our pursuit of global economic recovery," Obama told a packed press conference.
   
"By any measure, the London summit was historic. It was historic because of the size and the scope of the challenges that we face and because of the timeliness and magnitude of our response."
   
The president spoke after G20 nations agreed a huge program of new spending that will take their combined outlay in the crisis to five trillion dollars by the end of the next year.
   
The summit also allocated more than one trillion dollars to the International Monetary Fund and other institutions and ordered a crackdown on tax havens and excessive corporate pay, and new measures to help poor nations.
   
"We have agreed on a series of unprecedented steps to restore growth and prevent a crisis like this from happening again," said Obama, who appeared tired and was battling a heavy cold.
   
"In life, there are no guarantees, and in economics, there are no guarantees," he warned, when asked how quickly the large-scale reforms would rescue the crippled economy.
   
"I have no doubt, though, that the steps that have been taken are critical to preventing us sliding into a depression.
   
Earlier, US officials said the rookie president broke a "logjam" inside tense G20 negotiations between France and China over the key issue of tax havens.
  

Date created : 2009-04-03

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