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Last Updated: Friday, 14 December 2007, 05:16 GMT
Ministers meet for Afghan talks
British soldier in Afghanistan
Soldiers from eight countries are battling the Taleban
Ministers from eight Nato countries with troops in southern Afghanistan are due to meet near Edinburgh in Scotland to discuss the future of the country.

The meeting is being hosted by UK Defence Secretary Des Browne. His American counterpart, Robert Gates, is also taking part.

The meeting comes days after Nato and Afghan forces retook an important town in southern Afghanistan.

This is a regular meeting by countries with troops in southern Afghanistan.

The BBC's defence and security correspondent in Edinburgh says the meeting is not expected to produce any new announcements or outcomes.

I would like for all [Nato] allies to be involved [in Afghanistan]
Robert Gates
US secretary of defence

British defence officials say it is, nonetheless, an important opportunity to compare notes.

The agenda is familiar: how to deal with Afghanistan's neighbours - in particular Pakistan, seen as providing sanctuary for the Taleban - and how to get the right balance between military operations and the need for economic reconstruction.

'Tangible'

There is also likely to be strong behind-the-scenes encouragement offered to those countries whose involvement in southern Afghanistan is not domestically popular, namely Canada and the Netherlands.

More broadly this meeting comes at a time of growing consensus that while an international military presence is likely to be needed in Afghanistan for years, it is time for the counter-insurgency effort to have more of an Afghan face.

Mr Browne is expected to tell ministers from countries including the US and Canada that success in Afghanistan will require a concerted international effort. Speaking ahead of the meeting, he said progress was "tangible" but military power was only part of the solution.

Friday's meeting is being attended by defence and foreign representatives from the US, Canada, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Romania and Estonia.

The group's forces operating in southern Afghanistan are collectively known as regional command south.

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