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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 December 2007, 22:37 GMT
Ministers arrive for Afghan talks
ministers in edinburgh
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates with UK Defence Minister Des Browne
Ministers from eight Nato countries with troops in southern Afghanistan are gathering in Edinburgh to discuss the future of the country.

The meeting is being hosted by UK Defence Secretary Des Browne.

He will 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.

Mr Browne is hosting the meeting with key allies to consolidate plans for a comprehensive strategy in southern Afghanistan that will deliver security on the ground, reconstruction and an extension of the Afghan government's authority throughout the country.

We must build on our hard won military gains and go further to help the people of Afghanistan to provide their own security, governance and economic development
Des Browne
Defence minister

Mr Browne said: "Progress has been made in recent years and that is a great credit to the resolve of the Afghan government and the international effort.

"But strategic success and the long-term security of Afghanistan cannot be guaranteed without a concerted push.

"We must give the Afghan authorities the support they need to deliver the kind of success that we all recognise is vital, not just for security in Afghanistan, but for security in the wider world."

The meeting - the first of its kind to take place in Edinburgh - comes at the end of a week where Mr Browne has visited Afghanistan to see what progress UK and other troops are making and Prime Minister Gordon Brown set out the UK's future strategy.

Mutual interest

Mr Browne added: "I have just returned from a four-day visit to Afghanistan during which I saw at first hand what can be achieved by ISAF and Afghan forces working side-by-side.

"The progress is tangible, but military power can only ever be part of the solution. We must build on our hard-won military gains and go further to help the people of Afghanistan to provide their own security, governance and economic development."

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.

Informal meetings of this group happen on a regular basis and are an opportunity for ministers to discuss matters of mutual interest and ensure the approach of the eight countries is joined-up.

The meetings are also an opportunity to discuss - at the highest levels - current and future issues for Regional Command South so their experience these can be represented fully at upcoming NATO meetings.



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