France expected to send more troops to Afghanistan

LONDON, March 22 (Xinhua) — French President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to inform British Prime Minister Gordon Brown next week of France’s plan to send some 1,000 more troops to Afghanistan, reported the Times on Saturday.

The newspaper quoted a senior British official, who asked not to be named, as saying that the British Ministry of Defense has made a working assumption that Sarkozy will announce a deployment of “slightly more than 1,000 troops to the eastern region” in Afghanistan.

Sarkozy, to start a 3-day state visit to Britain on Wednesday, is expected to brief the prime minister on the deployment aimed at delivering a significant fillip to the NATO-led military operation in Afghanistan.

France’s presidential office and British and France’s ministries of defense have refused to comment on the report. France’s diplomats in London has said France has yet to make its final decision on the reinforcement.

The formal announcement of the deployment, however, would not be made until the NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, in early April, according to the report.

Joining the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, France has already stationed 1,900 troops in Afghanistan, where the Taliban, ousted from power by a U.S.-led anti-terror war six years ago, has waged a years-long guerrilla-style fighting against the government forces and the international troops.

The conflicts and Taliban-related violence have claimed around 8,000 lives in 2007, according to a latest-released UN figure.

Since 2002, at least 13 French soldiers have died in fighting or bomb attacks.

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