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NATO seeks Italy OK on troops

Rasmussen sees Berlusconi to discuss Afghanistan

25 November, 18:50
Silvio Berlusconi and Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Silvio Berlusconi and Anders Fogh Rasmussen
NATO seeks Italy OK on troops

ROME - Italy will consider a request from the US to commit more troops to the Afghanistan mission, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Wednesday ahead of a meeting between NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Premier Silvio Berlusconi to discuss the issue.

" Italy is already the third European contributor of forces to the mission in Afghanistan. We have done a lot while there are others who have done little," he told a TV talk show.

"However, should the US ask us for more troops we will consider doing so in order to send a positive message to NATO,'' he added. "Still, it's too early to talk about numbers (of troops) and formulas. The coalition began the mission together and has to get its work done together. And as (US) President Barack Obama has said, we can't leave Afghanistan in the hands of terrorists".

The minister stressed that "we should not be talking about numbers without mentioning objectives and a timetable".

Frattini, who was in Kabul last week for the inauguration of re-elected President Hamid Karzai, said the Afghan leader had told him he expected to "have full control of his country within five years".

NATO spokesman James Appathurai told a news conference in Brussels on Wednesday that Rasmussen would ask Berlusconi to confirm the additional 400 soldiers Italy deployed in Afghanistan to boost security in the drawn-out presidential electoral campaign.

Italy has some 2,800 troops deployed with the NATO-led ISAF mission in Afghanistan and holds the allied command in the west.

The Rasmussen-Berlusconi meeting came a day after Obama vowed on Tuesday to "finish the job" in Afghanistan. The US is expected to announce an increase of an extra 30,000 troops next week.

Asked about an exit strategy from the eight-year-old war, the White House said on Wednesday the US would no longer be in Afghanistan eight or nine years from now.

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