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Military

Berlin backs off threats to boycott London Afghan confab

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Berlin, Dec 29, IRNA -- The German government on Tuesday backed off its threats to boycott next month's London conference on Afghanistan, IRNA office in Belin reported.

German foreign ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said at a routine weekly press briefing in Berklin that he wanted to counter the impression that Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was threatening to boycott the London meeting on Afghanistan.

He labeled the January 28 Afghan confab "an important landmark."

Peschke's remarks came less than a day after Westerwelle threatened to stay away from next month's international Afghan conference in London, should the meeting focus merely on military aspects of the controversial Afghan war.

Talking to the Hamburg-based news magazine stern, Westerwelle said, "I will not go there (London), if the Afghanistan conference is only a purely troop provider conference."

Westerwelle stressed the need for a broad political concept and a comprehensive strategy in the Afghanistan.

There are reportedly strong reservations within the German government to deploy more troops in the war-stricken country amid US calls for more German soldiers.

The US and other key NATO allies have stepped up their pressure for more soldiers from Germany, which has the third largest military contingent in Afghanistan with around 4,500 troops.

Berlin has repeatedly made clear it would await the outcome of the London meeting before committing more soldiers to Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan conference will aim to pave the ground for a gradual transfer of security responsibilities to Afghan control.

The conference, originally proposed by the leaders of Britain, France and Germany, could offer a glimpse of an exit strategy for NATO countries by setting out a roadmap for Afghan forces gradually to take over more security responsibilities.

That could ease the pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel who has faced strong criticism at home over the September 4 massacre of dozens of Afghan civilians in the German-ordered NATO airstrike in Kunduz.

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End News / IRNA / News Code 867188



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