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Friday, 7 December, 2001, 17:59 GMT
UN urges peacekeeping force for Afghanistan
US marines
US marines are operating in southern Afghanistan
The head of the United Nations peacekeeping operations, Jean-Marie Guehenno, has said a multinational force for Afghanistan should be deployed as soon as possible.

Mr Guehenno, who has been in London for talks with senior British government officials, said he hoped at least part of the force could be in place when the new interim government takes office in Afghanistan, in 15 days time.

After the political momentum created by the talks, I think there is a need for a quick deployment of that multinational force

Jean-Marie Guehenno
Mr Guehenno said the force would not be under UN command, but would be authorised by the UN Security Council.

The UK's Independent newspaper said that Britain could lead the peacekeeping force if no other European nation volunteered for the role.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Britain would be "willing to play its part" by making troops available.

Contributors to decide

There has been speculation that the international force would be drawn largely from Muslim countries.

Countries with troops already committed to Afghanistan
United States: Special forces based at airstrip near Kandahar and elsewhere
United Kingdom: Special force at Bagram airport near Kabul
France: Troops based in Mazar-e-Sharif in north
Germany: 3,900 troops on standby
Mr Guehenno said the speed of deployment and the force's exact role would be decided by the countries contributing to it.

He said the multinational force for East Timor would be a model for the Afghan operation.

Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Indonesia and Bangladesh have been named as possible contributors to the force, though it is thought none of Afghanistan's neighbours are likely to participate.

Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Italy are also said to have offered to take part but none of these countries has yet volunteered to lead the force.

The United States, Britain and France already have troops deployed in Afghanistan, and Germany has a force of just under 4,000 on standby.

UN authorisation

Mr Guehenno said the force could be deployed first in the capital Kabul then expanded to other major city centres.

The UN Security Council delayed a decision to authorise the force to support the agreement on an interim administration, signed in Bonn on Wednesday and endorsed by the council on Thursday.

But UN officials have said the council could give the force the go-ahead within days of a proposal being presented by contributing countries.

See also:

16 Nov 01 | South Asia
Bringing stability to Afghanistan
28 Nov 01 | South Asia
Alliance opposes multi-national force
27 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesian troops set for Afghanistan
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