France eyes sending troops to Afghan combat zone

Tue Feb 26, 2008 10:58am EST
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Washington is heading a campaign for what it calls a fairer sharing of the burden in the fight against Taliban insurgents. Britain, Canada, Poland and others have backed the U.S. demand.

Germany, Italy and Spain have troops in relatively secure areas and have refused to send troops to southern and eastern provinces where the militants are most active.

At a meeting in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius this month, NATO defense ministers with troops fighting the Taliban in the south of Afghanistan backed calls by the United States for more countries to send forces there.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said last week the alliance's future rested on its mission in Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, senior Canadian officials had talks in Paris on a possible offer of French support for 2,500 Canadian troops in southern Afghanistan.

Since his election in May, Sarkozy has sent more combat aircraft to Kandahar in southern Afghanistan and beefed up French efforts to train the Afghan army.

(Reporting by Andrew Dobbie in Paris and Mark John in Brussels; Editing by Robert Woodward)

<p>British soldiers take a break after securing an area during medical assistance in Kabul February 26, 2008. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood</p>