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Last Updated: Friday, 14 December 2007, 16:37 GMT
Nato 'must share Afghan burden'
Ministers at Edinburgh meeting
The ministers pictured in a break during the meeting
More countries must help "share the burden" of combating the Taleban in Afghanistan, Defence Secretary Des Browne has said.

Mr Browne was speaking as defence and foreign ministers met in Edinburgh to discuss Afghanistan's future.

He said Prime Minister Gordon Brown had already made it clear the UK wanted to see "fairer burden sharing across the Nato countries".

The Edinburgh meeting was attended by officials from eight countries.

Mr Browne was the first to arrive at the talks held in a chateau-style building deep in the heart of the Army's Craigiehall complex near Edinburgh.

Other ministers and senior officials began arriving soon afterwards in fleets of limousines.

Heavy security

US defence secretary Robert Gates arrived shortly after 0900 GMT in a six-vehicle convoy flanked by five police motorcycles.

Unlike the other early arrivals, he received a personal greeting from Mr Browne outside the building.

The meeting was surrounded by heavy security with anti-war groups having circulated details of the event.

A small number of protesters gathered outside the complex from early in the morning.

Another 40 protesters staged a demonstration on the edge of the A90, about half a mile from the talks.

They were being monitored by four mounted police and about 20 officers on foot, in high-visibility jackets.

This is a country that has been ravaged by 25 years plus of conflict, this is a country that has 80% illiteracy rates in some places
Des Browne
Defence secretary

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Mr Browne said: "We are looking to our Nato partners to share the burden, particularly of the more difficult parts of the country."

The meeting involved representatives from the eight countries that have troops or significant resources in the south of Afghanistan - Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Estonia and Romania.

Australia's defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon was reportedly told the gathering that his country would send no more troops to Afghanistan until European countries such as Spain and Germany stepped up their commitment.

Long-term stability

Mr Browne, who recently returned from a visit to Afghanistan, said: "There are parts of the country where the security challenge is greater and very obviously the southern provinces, that most countries who are represented today have responsibility for are facing that.

"We have made some significant improvements in it I think over the last 18 months and I would like to see more countries making a contribution to that."

The Defence Secretary explained that the meeting would look at how best the resources in Afghanistan could be used.

The gathering came two days after Mr Brown set out plans to secure the long-term stability of Afghanistan while ruling out talks with senior Taleban leaders.

Mr Brown told the Commons of additional development aid, as well as more armoured vehicles and helicopters for British forces.



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