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U.S. Diplomat Prods NATO To Take Bigger Afghan Role

13 October 2004 (RFE/RL) -- A U.S. diplomat urged NATO countries today to assume a bigger role in Afghanistan and to devise a plan to take over all military operations there -- possibly as early as next year.

Speaking before a meeting of NATO defense chiefs in Romania, U.S. NATO ambassador Nicholas Burns asked NATO to develop a plan by February 2005 to take over operations, now split between an 18,000-strong U.S. force and a NATO contingent half that size.

Some NATO envoys expressed surprise at the request. Germany said it would object if it meant upgrading NATO's mandate from a peacekeeping and security function.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer also announced the alliance's new rapid response force, designed to react to crisis situations, is ready for action.