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Spain mulls sending 200 more troops to Afghanistan: PM

Spain will send around 200 more troops to Afghanistan if they are needed to boost security in the war-ravaged nation, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on Saturday.

world Updated: Sep 05, 2009 20:38 IST

Spain will send around 200 more troops to Afghanistan if they are needed to boost security in the war-ravaged nation, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on Saturday.

"We will send more troops if it is necessary and it is likely that it will be necessary," he told private radio Onda Cero.
"Apart from reporting on the current situation, the defence minister will probably ask parliament to increase troop numbers by around 200," he added.

Zapatero was elected in 2004 on a promise to pull Spain out of the US-led coalition in Iraq but he has continued to support the deployment of troops to Afghanistan on the grounds that the mission in the country, unlike the invasion of Iraq, has a United Nations mandate.

Late last year Spain's parliament lifted a 3,000-troop limit on how many soldiers the country can deploy overseas and in an interview published in the New York Times in July Zapatero said Madrid would be willing to send more soldiers to Afghanistan.

The announcement appeared to have been a concession from the prime minister, a socialist, to new US President Barack Obama after years of strained relations with the administration of George W. Bush due to Madrid's decision to pull its troops out of Iraq.

Spain has about 1,230 troops stationed in Afghanistan as part of the 64,500-strong, NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) which is supporting the beleaguered Afghan government.

About 450 of them were sent to provide security for the Afghan presidential elections on August 20 and are supposed to return after the results are known on September 17.

Spanish troops killed 13 insurgents on Thursday while repelling an attack in western Afghanistan that lasted about six hours in what Defence Minister Carme Chacon has said was one of the most "serious" attacks they have faced in the country.

Zapatero also said Spain would stress the need to "renew" a military exit plan for foreign troops from Afghanistan when the country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union during the first half of 2010.