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UK leaders challenged to change policy on Afghan war

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, April 22, IRNA -- Britain’s three main party leaders are being challenged to set out a new agenda on Afghanistan when they questioned on foreign policy issues in their second US-style election debate being aired on Thursday night.

“If leaders make just one commitment tonight, it should be a pledge to take notice of what Afghans want,” said Barbara Stocking, the chief executive of Oxfam aid agency.

Stocking said the televised debate was an “unprecedented opportunity” for Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Conservative leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg to set out their foreign policies.

“We hope all three leaders remember that the lives of millions of Afghans will also be affected by the commitments they lay out,” she said.

Her call comes after a poll published on Wednesday found that majority of British voters are against the Afghan war but complain that they are given little choice of changing UK policy at next month’s elections.

Nearly three-quarters of electors viewed the war as "unwinnable", more than half did not understand why British troops are still in Afghanistan and 70 per cent said the main parties did not offer "any real choice” in changing policy.

In a letter to the Guardian newspaper, Stocking said that Afghans want many of the things, including healthcare and education, good governance, leaders they can trust and the opportunity to earn a living.

“They tell us that poverty, corruption and weak government are drivers of conflict and, unless we address these issues, the violence will continue,” she said.

In a separate appeal, a range of peace activists and campaigners, led by former cabinet minister Tony Benn warned that the nine-year old war had already cost Britain £12 billion ($18bn) and caused the loss of thousands of lives.

“The war is worsening, and the idea that it is making Britain safer is not backed up by any evidence. A majority of British public opinion wants the troops home, yet the war is almost totally absent from manifestos,” their letter to the Guardian said.

“We believe that the case for withdrawing the troops is very strong. Our politicians have a duty to debate these issues openly – we hope they will do so tonight,” it said.


End News / IRNA / News Code 1071795

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