Page last updated at 16:16 GMT, Thursday, 16 October 2008 17:16 UK

Germany to boost Afghanistan role

German soldiers in Afghanistan. File photo
Germany has 3,500 troops in Afghanistan

Germany's parliament has voted to extend the country's military mission in Afghanistan and to deploy an extra 1,000 troops there.

The decision will keep German troops in Afghanistan until December 2009, boosting their number to 4,500.

Germany is the third-biggest contributor to the 47,000-strong Nato-led force.

The plan put forward by Chancellor Angela Merkel was overwhelmingly approved by members of the lower house.

The motion was backed by 442 MPs, while 96 voted against it and there were 32 abstentions.

The move already has the support of the upper chamber of parliament.

"This decision contributes to the stabilisation and peaceful development of Afghanistan," said Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung.

The German contingent is based in the relatively calm northern regions of Afghanistan.

But Berlin has been under pressure from its Nato allies not only to boost troop levels but to also shift soldiers from the north to the more dangerous south to help fight Taleban insurgents.

However, the Afghanistan mission is deeply unpopular in Germany and has been sharply criticised by some left-wing politicians one year ahead of a general election.

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