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Friday, 14 December, 2001, 10:31 GMT
UK talks on Afghan troops
British troops on exercise
Army officials will discuss a peacekeeping force
Military officials from countries prepared to send troops for a peacekeeping force in Afghanistan are meeting in London.

At least 10 countries including France, Germany, Turkey, Spain, Italy and Jordan, were attending the meeting in a bunker at the Ministry of Defence's crisis management centre on Friday.


They will look at the when, where, how and what of a deployment

MoD spokeswoman on military officials' conference
The UK has already said it is prepared to play the leading role in the force.

No decisions will be made until next week after a small team of British army officers visit Kabul to prepare the way for such a force.

Primary role

European Union foreign policy representative Javier Solana has said the prospects of an international force being deployed to Afghanistan were "very high".

Speaking on Friday on the BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said: "It will be led by a European Union country and it will be composed mostly of European Union countries."

Ahead of the conference, an MoD spokeswoman said: "They [military officials] will look at the when, where, how and what of a deployment."

She added that the force would have a "peacekeeping" role, and suggested it would also have a "robust mandate".

Tony Blair with US Secretary of State Colin Powell in London
Blair: Britain prepared "in principle" to command force in Afghanistan
Other nations sending officials include the United States, she added.

Countries are expected to offer troops and assets for a force which has not yet received a mandate from the United Nations.

Preparatory visit

A group of British army officers will leave for Afghanistan's capital city in the next few days to assess problems an international force could face, an MoD spokeswoman said.

The military experts will help the countries decide on the mission's scope and size.

The team of about 10 military officials will be led by Major-General John McColl.

The BBC's Paul Adams said delegate negotiations would continue with Afghan leaders.

The Interim defence minister Mohammed Fahim does not want a force of more than 1,000 but London believes 3-6,000 is more appropriate, he said.

No formal announcement on Britain's role is expected until next week, timed to coincide with a UN Security Council resolution giving the security force a mandate.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Tuesday that Britain was prepared "in principle" to command any force in Afghanistan.

Speaking after talks with US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Mr Blair said there were an "immense amount of detail to be decided and discussions to be had" before any force was put in place.

A British advance team could be on the ground by Christmas.

Video 'proof'

Downing Street said a video released by the US showing Bin Laden boasting about the 11 September attacks, was conclusive proof of his involvement.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "There is no doubt it is the real thing.

"People are able to see Bin Laden there with those utterly chilling words of admission about his guilt for organising the atrocities of September 11."

In the amateur video, discovered by US intelligence officers in a house in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, the al Qaeda leader says the hijackers were only told of their mission just before boarding the aircraft.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Paul Adams
"Governments will offer troops and assets"
See also:

08 Dec 01 | South Asia
The challenge of Afghan peacekeeping
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