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Afghanistan tops agenda at NATO summit

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Afghanistan tops agenda at NATO summit

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US President George W Bush has arrived in Europe ahead of a week of diplomacy which includes a NATO summit followed by crucial talks in the Middle East. The war against the Taliban in Afghanistan is likely to top the agenda when leaders of the 26-strong Alliance meet in the Latvian capital of Riga today and tomorrow. There are 32,000 troops in Afghanistan fighting what experts say is the toughest ground war in NATO’s 57-year history. Success is seen as critical to the Organisation’s future.

Member nations are resisting US calls to bolster troop numbers. Several also disagree over restrictions on what national contingents are authorised to do on the ground. The US, the UK and Canada say they are shouldering the burden in the dangerous Helmand Province and want more nations to deploy their forces further south.

Security, as always, is tight for the summit, the first to be held on former Soviet soil. The US is also hoping for closer ties with allies in the Asia-Pacific region as well as with Scandinavia. But many NATO members are wary of what is seen as a more global grouping.