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Sarkozy names envoy for Afghanistan, Pakistan

world Updated: Mar 03, 2009 16:15 IST

AFP
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President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday named Pierre Lellouche as special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying he would seek to strengthen France's role in shaping foreign involvement there.

"Your knowledge of these countries and their politico military issues make you the natural choice to strengthen France's role in defining and implementing international involvement" in this region, said Sarkozy in a letter released by his office.

The appointment of Lellouche, a 57 year old member of the National Assembly with a longstanding interest in the region, came as Defence Minister Herve Morin was holding talks in Washington on Afghanistan.

France, the fourth largest contributor of troops to an international force serving in Afghanistan, has ruled out providing more troops but it could consider other ways of stepping up its engagement such as police training.

Sarkozy told Lellouche he had a free hand to propose "any initiative that you consider useful for our interests" and that he would lead talks with allies and with Afghan and Pakistani authorities.

US President Barack Obama, who is conducting a review of Washington's foreign military missions, is sending 17,000 more US troops to Afghanistan and has called for a new regional approach.

Nearly 70,000 troops serving under NATO command and a separate US led coalition have been fighting an increasingly violent Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.