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Friday, April 3, 2009

Obama Pushes Afghan Plan at NATO Summit

03/04/2009 | Almanartv


President Obama (left) tells a joint press conference with the French president that the US cannot win the Afghan war alone.

Barack Obama met his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday ahead of NATO's 60th anniversary summit, at which the US president will drum up support for his new Afghan war strategy.

The city of Strasbourg on France's frontier with Germany was under security lockdown as 28 NATO leaders began to arrive following a day of clashes between protesters and French riot police that led to 300 arrests.

On his first European tour since being elected president, Obama held bilateral talks with Sarkozy and was also to see Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany ahead of the summit proper.

Eager photographers were treated to the first meeting between the world's most famous first ladies, Obama's wife Michelle and Italian-born model-turned-singer Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.

Pleasantries exchanged, the main business of the summit will be a debate on tactics in Afghanistan, where NATO occupation troops are battling a tenacious insurgency, and also updating the Atlantic Alliance's global strategy for the 21st century.

As if to underline the urgency of the review, a soldier in the NATO-led occupation force in Afghanistan was killed Friday and another wounded in a "hostile incident", the military said in Kabul.

There was trouble too in France, where police confirmed 300 suspects had been arrested overnight as protesters clashed with the 10,000-strong force manning the security cordon around the Strasbourg venue.

NATO, the world's most powerful military alliance, was formed in 1949 and has since grown to 28 members after absorbing many former Warsaw Pact foes.

The formal meetings on Saturday will be dominated by the mission in Afghanistan, where 70,000 troops - mostly under NATO command - are at war.

Obama will use the summit to showcase a new Afghan war plan and to enlist support from sometimes skeptical European allies for a renewed effort to crush Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"Afghanistan should not be or become President Obama's conflict, it should be a joint effort for all of the allies," NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told CNN as Airforce One landed in Strasbourg. "All allies should step up to the plate, and if that's not military, then on the civilian side," he added.

Washington has decided to send 21,000 extra US occupation troops and is considering deploying 10,000 more, while asking the allies to contribute more of their own soldiers and civilian support staff.

Obama's predecessor George W. Bush struggled to convince reluctant European allies to increase their commitment, but the new
US national security adviser predicts that NATO is now ready to up the ante. "It would be wrong to conclude that we will not get any contributions, either manpower or resources, because I think that's not going to be the case," General James Jones said in a conference call Thursday with reporters.

The summit will also debate whether and how to thaw ties with Russia, frozen after its war against Georgia in August and will discuss who will replace Scheffer when he steps down in July.

The frontrunner to take up the role is Denmark's Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, despite opposition from Turkey, a major NATO ally.

Ankara was angered that Rasmussen failed to act on its request to close down a Denmark-based TV station linked to Kurdish rebels and criticized his stance during the crisis over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. "How can those who have failed to contribute to peace, contribute to peace in the future? We have doubts... and my personal opinion is negative," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday.

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