No more US unilateralism in Afghanistan: French envoy

March 5th, 2009 - 12:17 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaParis, March 4 (DPA) The new French special envoy to Afghanistan, Pierre Lellouche, said in an interview published Wednesday that NATO allies fighting on Afghan soil must not revert to the unilateral approach taken by former US president George W. Bush.
“It is normal that we act as co-pilots in the international strategy in Afghanistan,” Lellouche told the daily Le Monde. “We must not again fall into the American unilateral excesses of the Bush administration, which provoked a deep gulf between the United States and its NATO allies.”

Lellouche said Paris would “test” the dialogue proposed by President Barack Obama.

“Let us hope that it works. The stakes are too great,” he said, and added: “We will not stay in Afghanistan indefinitely.”

French officials have repeatedly declared that they had no intention of deploying more soldiers to Afghanistan. France currently has some 3,300 troops there, including military instructors.

However, Obama has said he intends to increase the US troop strength in Afghanistan, and has frequently asked NATO members to provide more soldiers as well.

Lellouche said that the conflict in Afghanistan was a war, and not an “international police operation”, as French Defence Minister Herve Morin described it last autumn.

“The proof is that France spends nearly 200 million euros ($250 million) a year on its army in that country,” while spending only 11 million euros on civilian aid, he said.

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