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Last Updated: Friday, 16 February 2007, 04:50 GMT
Afghan leader in key Rome talks
Hamid Karzai
Mr Karzai will discuss the fight against terrorism
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is due to meet Italian PM Romano Prodi to discuss the fight against militant groups and drug traffickers in his country.

Italy has 2,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of Nato's International Security Assistance Force (Isaf).

But Mr Prodi has resisted calls to increase the number of troops.

A BBC correspondent in Rome says Mr Prodi will reassure Mr Karzai that Italian troops will remain in Afghanistan until 2011.

But our correspondent says he is unlikely to agree at Friday's meeting in Rome to allow Italian soldiers to be moved south to Helmand province to support Nato troops in their fight against the resurgent Taleban.

Reluctance

The governor of southern Helmand province said this week up to 700 insurgents had crossed from Pakistan and were preparing to fight Nato.

The reluctance of Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Turkey to provide more troops in southern Afghanistan has frustrated those nations on the front lines.

Last week the Italian Foreign Minister Massimo d'Alema complained about an open letter that was signed by six Rome-based ambassadors, including the US and Britain, which urged Italy to stay in Afghanistan.

Nato troops in Afghanistan
US-led forces have been fighting the Taleban since 2001

US President George W Bush has called on other Nato members to step up their battle against Afghanistan's Taleban.

There are currently around 33,000 troops from 37 nations in Afghanistan. Their objective is to strengthen the remit of the weak central government and provide the necessary levels of security for reconstruction to take place.

Separately, Afghan and US-led coalition forces arrested two suspected terrorists with ties to suicide attacks and heroin making during an operation late Wednesday near Jalalabad in Nangarhar province, a coalition statement said.

The statement said that at least one suspect is believed to have ties to reclusive Taleban leader Mullah Omar.


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