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UK: More Nato Troops Needed In Afghanistan - PM

UK: More NATO troops needed in Afghanistan - PM

Gordon Brown will urge more countries to send troops and resources to Afghanistan at NATO's biggest ever summit this week.

Mr Brown will arrive in Bucharest this afternoon in time for a series of key bilateral meetings ahead of the formal start of the talks. Harriet Harman MP will take PMQs in her role as Leader of the House of Commons.

Speaking at his regular press briefing yesterday, Gordon Brown said that "burden sharing" among the 40 Allies in Afghanistan would be high on the agenda. He said members will discuss the possibility of sending more combat troops or providing more equipment.

The Prime Minister added that it was in the "rest of the world's" interests to make sure that Afghanistan doesn't fall again to the Taliban. "I believe that at the NATO meeting, when we discuss Afghanistan, all voices - voices of small countries and large - will be heard," he said.

Today's gathering of 3,000 delegates from both NATO member states and partnership countries represents the alliance's biggest gathering since its formation in 1949.

***

EXTRACT FROM TRANSCRIPT (1 April 2008)

Question: Australia has decided they are going to push for one of the temporary seats on the United Nations Security Council, and I know Britain has helped nations in the past. I wonder if Britain under you would actively lobby on Australia's behalf? And if I can ask a question on Afghanistan. A lot of small countries have complained that they don't have access to the top of the table sort of command structure on a day to day basis. Do you think that has cost you, or cost NATO, the support of more troops from smaller countries and should those small countries have access to the top command structure every day?

Prime Minister: I see you are learning the rules here - you ask two questions at once.

Look the first thing is I am looking forward to welcoming the new Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, to Britain this weekend. I am very pleased that after the NATO Summit he is going to be visiting Britain and I am looking forward to having talks with him and to being able to talk to you after that later. And I do applaud the announcements he has made, particularly on climate change in Australia where he is ready to join an international discussion that will be of benefit to the whole world.

As far as the United Nations is concerned we have said that we wish to see Security Council reform. I believe that that is a reform that is overdue but I am not going to get into the business of announcing how.

Question: Inaudible.

Prime Minister: But this is a reform, if there is to be a Security Council change it will be part of a wider reform and I think it is important that we don't announce in advance what we are doing in particular areas. But the contribution of Australia to both the world economy and to governance in the world is a very important one indeed and I wish to acknowledge that.

As far as Afghanistan is concerned there are more than 40 countries in Afghanistan, it is a joint coalition mission. I welcome the contribution that Australia has made in Afghanistan and one of the things that we will be discussing tomorrow, Thursday and Friday is the burden sharing between different countries and how countries that perhaps are not making the contribution that they can, could make more of a contribution, and countries that cannot send fighting troops for all sorts of reasons might be able to help with equipment and we can have a better burden sharing amongst our allies.

Afghanistan is the front line against the Taliban. Let's make no mistake about it. If Afghanistan falls again to the Taliban it creates a vulnerability for the whole of the rest of the world and if al Queda, as they are trying to do, are to make progress in Afghanistan that is also a further danger to the world. So it is very important that we act to deal with the problems in Afghanistan. And that is why we put forward a strategy only a few weeks ago that suggested that not only must we make sure that our military strength is there to withstand the Taliban, but we have also got to train up the Afghan army and police, and we are helping to do that and many countries are doing that, and we have also got to give people a stake in the future so that Afghan people themselves can see in local government and national government, and in the economics and social development that we can bring about, that they have a stake in the future of Afghanistan and I believe that all people have a similar interest in achieving that. And I believe that at the NATO meeting when we discuss Afghanistan all voices, voices of small countries and large countries, will be heard.

ENDS

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