Page last updated at 12:43 GMT, Thursday, 13 November 2008

Brown in talks with Afghan leader

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Prime Minister Gordon Brown
President Karzai insisted violence in his country was not getting worse

The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, has said all efforts are being made "to bring violence down" after a bloody 24 hours in which at least 21 people died.

He was speaking after talks in Downing St with Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The meeting came after attacks in which two Royal Marines, one US soldier and at least 18 civilians died.

President Karzai insisted violence in Afghanistan was not increasing, saying it was at the same level "as it was for the past year or two".

He said he and Mr Brown had had "a very good discussion", covering topics such as how to improve security and speed up reconstruction.

Asked whether violence was increasing in his country, he said it was at a stable level.

He added: "The whole effort is to make it better and to bring violence down."

'Share the burden'

President Karzai was speaking after Afghan foreign minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta called for more troops to be deployed to the south of the country "to respond to terrorist activities".

US president-elect Barack Obama has said he plans to send two more combat brigades to Afghanistan when he takes office in January.

He is also expected to ask other Nato allies to strengthen their numbers.

It is crucial that we reduce the operational tempo for our armed forces
Sir Jock Stirrup
Chief of Defence Staff

But Foreign Secretary David Miliband indicated last weekend that the UK would expect other countries to take a larger role in any so-called "surge" led by the US.

"As the second-largest contributor of troops in Afghanistan, the first thing we say is that we don't want to bear an unfair share of the burden," he said.

The UK already has 8,100 troops in Helmand province and the head of Britain's armed forces, Sir Jock Stirrup, recently warned that thousands of troops expected to be withdrawn from Iraq next year could not simply be redeployed to Afghanistan.

Meanwhile a BBC-commissioned poll has suggested that nearly 70% of people in the UK favour bringing the troops home.

On Thursday the MoD confirmed that two Royal Marines from the UK Landing Force Command Support Group were killed in an explosion in Helmand on Wednesday. Their families have been informed.

Their deaths bring the total number of UK service personnel killed in Afghanistan since operations began to 124.

Elsewhere, in the eastern Nangarhar province, at least 18 civilians and a US soldier were killed in a suicide car bomb attack against a US convoy. More than 70 other people have been wounded.

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