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Germany

Clinton Calls for German Help in Afghanistan

German Foreign Minister Steinmeier and Hillary Clinton vowed to boost transatlantic ties at a meeting in DC but the new US secretary of state also made it clear she expected more German help in Afghanistan.

Photo with a rocket in the background and Iranian flag in the foreground

Steinmeier spoke of a new chapter in trans-atlantic ties after meeting Clinton

Speaking after meeting her German counterpart in Washington on Tuesday, Feb 3, Clinton said the US needed Germany to play a larger role in Afghanistan to help fight a Taliban-led insurgency.

"As President (Barack) Obama has made quite clear, we need our closest allies, like Germany, to help us ensure the success and stability of the Afghan nation at this very important moment," Clinton said.

Germany hesitant to raise troop levels

Obama has singled out Afghanistan as his main front in the war on terrorism and plans to deploy 30,000 more US troops there over the next 18 months.

Germany last year increased to 4,500 the number of troops it has in Afghanistan, where they form part of NATO's 50,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

German soldiers near the German embassy in Kabul after a bomb attack

NATO-led international troops in Afghanistan have come under increased attacks

But Germany has balked at the idea of sending more troops to Afghanistan as rising casualties and increasing violence has threatened civil reconstruction efforts and made the mission unpopular with voters.

Steinmeier skirted the issue of Afghanistan during comments to reporters, focusing instead on the Middle East, Iran and trans-atlantic relations.

Clinton said she respected Germany's contribution in Afghanistan so far.

"I conveyed to the foreign minister this afternoon our deep appreciation for everything Germany has done for the people of Afghanistan and for its continued commitment to this important effort," Clinton told reporters.

"We have had an excellent and broad discussion," she said. "And I appreciate Frank's very constructive advice about what is possible and how we can ensure that our approach toward Afghanistan will be as unified and constructive as we can make it."

Clinton said the newly appointed special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, would make his first trip to Central Asia next week.

Iran satellite launch sparks concern

Clinton and Steinmeier also discussed the global financial crisis, Iran's nuclear programme, the conflict in the Middle East, climate change and disarmament.

Iran grabbed the world's attention Tuesday when it launched into orbit its first domestically produced satellite. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered the launching of the satellite called Omid, or Hope, on a domestically produced Safir 2 rocket, official news agency IRNA reported.

Germany and other Western powers were quick to condemn the move with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier calling the launch a "worrying development."

Montage of Obama, Ahmadinejad and the US and Iranian flags

The Safir Omid satellite rocket in Iran before it was lauched into space

The reported launch shows "once again the technical achievements that Iran is obviously capable of and the threats," Steinmeier said in ahead of the meeting with Clinton, adding that the reports represented a "worrying development and a disturbing sign."

The reports have raised concern among nations who have been working to curb Iran's alleged development of nuclear weapons.

In light of Tuesday's reported satellite launch, Steinmeier added that it was even more necessary for "joint efforts with the new US administration must be resumed ... in order to divert Iran from any military uses of its nuclear program."

The meetings between Clinton and her UK and German counterparts came a day before the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- plus Germany meet in Berlin on Wednesday to discuss Iran's nuclear enrichment program.

In a major reversal of US foreign policy, new US President Barack Obama has said he is willing to pursue diplomacy and open direct talks with Tehran to help curb its nuclear ambitions. Germany has cautiously welcomed the new tack.

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