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NATO Ministers Discuss Expanded Role In Afghanistan

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for a strong response if Iran ignores the UN (NATO) April 28, 2006 -- NATO today reaffirmed its readiness to nearly double its peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan, where violence is increasing.

NATO plans to raise troop levels in Afghanistan to some 17,000 from July and help the United States wind down its presence in the country's perilous south.

Foreign ministers of the 26-member alliance are discussing the issue at a two-day meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria.

NATO spokesman James Appathurai said there is "a shared determination to push forward with the expansion of the mission."

Ahead of a key report to the United Nations on Tehran's nuclear ambitions, Iran also loomed over the Sofia talks. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on April 27 called for tough action if Tehran ignored demands to suspend uranium enrichment.

The NATO ministers are also due to have talks with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in separate meetings.

(Reuters, dpa)