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NATO Finalizes Afghan Transit Deal With Kazakhstan

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -- NATO said it had finalized an agreement with Kazakhstan on the transit of supplies to Afghanistan, hoping it will reduce its reliance on a route through Pakistan that has been attacked by the Taliban.

The agreement should allow NATO to implement a deal with Russia for the transit of nonlethal supplies to the forces of the Western military alliance and its partners fighting a Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

"This allows supplies for our forces to start moving from Europe to Afghanistan, beginning in the coming days, complementing the very important transit route through Pakistan," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.

In the same statement, Rasmussen welcomed Germany's announcement of plans to send up to 850 more soldiers to Afghanistan and what he called "a very substantial contribution" to NATO's training mission for Afghan security forces.

He also hailed Romania's announcement of 600 more soldiers for Afghanistan and said other new contributions were likely to be announced in the coming days.

"Taken together, the announcement of new forces, and a new supply route, helps to further strengthen the NATO-ISAF [International Security Assistance Force]," he said.

The announcements were made on the eve of an international conference in London which is expected to agree on a framework for the Afghan government to begin taking charge of security in line with a 2011 timetable set by U.S. President Barack Obama to start drawing down U.S. troops.