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Karzai, Cameron agree to strengthen ties in first meeting

world Updated: May 15, 2010 19:21 IST

AFP
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Prime Minister David Cameron and Afghan President Hamid Karzai agreed Saturday to strengthen ties between London and Kabul in the first meeting between the new British PM and a foreign leader.

Karzai, on his way home from Washington, stopped off in Britain to meet Cameron, whose new government has put Afghanistan top of its foreign policy agenda.

The visit was the first to Britain by an international leader since Cameron's Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition took office on Tuesday, following the May 6 general election.

The meeting came the day after Britain's new Foreign Secretary William Hague met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington for talks dominated by Afghanistan.

The president is to hold a "peace jirga" meeting of Afghanistan's tribal and community leaders at the end of the month.

Karzai and Cameron met at Chequers, the prime minister's country residence.

"The prime minister was delighted to invite President Karzai to Chequers, the first formal visit by an international leader since the election," a spokesman for the PM's Downing Street office said.

"They discussed President Karzai's very successful visit to Washington, and the prospects for the peace jirga in Afghanistan at the end of May.

"Both the president and prime minister agreed that the relationship between Afghanistan and Britain should be further strengthened.

"The president and the prime minister expressed their admiration for the courage and skill of the British military in Afghanistan, and the sacrifices that British forces have made."

Britain has around 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, largely battling Taliban insurgents in the southern Helmand Province. It has lost 285 personnel since operations began in late 2001.