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Afghan security transfer should start this year: German FM

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Berlin, Jan 2, IRNA -- German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Saturday the turnover of responsibility for security to Afghanistan authorities should start this year.

Talking to the Munich-based news magazine Focus, the minister said, "At the Afghanistan conference in London we should be working towards beginning the hand-over process for security responsibility from 2010 on."

"It's about the beginning of a process which has an exit strategy for our soldiers at its end," he added.

Westerwelle stressed an all-out strategy to building governance, combating corruption, and further promotion of economic development in Afghanistan had to be prioritized rather than merely deploying additional soldiers.

Germany's top diplomat backed off from earlier threats to stay away from the international Afghan conference, slated to be held in London on January, should the meeting focus only on military aspects of the controversial Afghan war.

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

The US and other key NATO allies have stepped up their pressure for additional troops 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.

OT**1416

End News / IRNA / News Code 873918



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