Sarkozy pledges more troops for Afghanistan

Wed Mar 26, 2008 5:25pm EDT
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By Adrian Croft and Paul Majendie

LONDON (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged in a speech to Britain's parliament on Wednesday to send more troops to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan and called for a "new Franco-British brotherhood."

The United States and Britain have repeatedly called on NATO allies to boost their contributions to the force in Afghanistan, where they are battling a Taliban that seems to be growing in strength.

On a two-day state visit aimed at improving awkward ties, Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown both vowed to boost cooperation on the international economy and immigration.

In a passionate speech, Sarkozy sketched a vision of far-reaching economic and defense cooperation and said France would send more troops to fight the Taliban if NATO backed its proposals. Paris has not yet made public its plans or gone into detail about troop numbers.

"If these proposals are accepted, France will propose at the (forthcoming NATO) summit in Bucharest, reinforcing its military presence. We cannot accept the return of the Taliban and al Qaeda to Kabul," he told lawmakers to applause.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband told Reuters after the speech: "I think there's a very clear signal that France wants to fulfill all of its responsibilities, diplomatic and military, in Afghanistan and that's obviously extremely welcome."

Sarkozy said he would for ask Brown's help in getting Washington to halt a plunge of the dollar making European exports more expensive. Britain rejects the idea of managing foreign exchange levels, saying markets are the best guide.

Brown, who will hold talks with Sarkozy on Thursday, said a new era was dawning for the "entente cordiale" -- a treaty signed by the two countries in 1904 -- in which Britain and France would speak as one on international economic reform.   Continued...

<p>France's President Nicolas Sarkozy walks ahead of Britain's Prince Philip as they review the honor guard at Windsor Castle near London, March 26, 2008. REUTERS/Eric Feferberg/Pool</p>