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Afghan Foreign Minister Prepares Australia Visit

16 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said today he will discuss Australia's impending deployment of troops in Afghanistan when he meets his Afghan counterpart in Canberra this week.

Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah will arrive in Australia on 17 August and will leave on 21 August for New Zealand. During his visits to the two countries he is scheduled to meet Australian Prime Minister John Howard and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, as well as foreign and defense ministers.

Australia has promised to send 150 elite troops to Afghanistan by September to fight insurgents. It is also considering sending up to 200 more troops as part of a reconstruction team early next year.

New Zealand has a 40-strong elite commando unit currently fighting insurgents in Afghanistan and a 120-member Provincial Reconstruction Team in the northern province of Bamiyan.