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France calls for Aid Conference

Millions of Afghans are fleeing their country, causing a humanitarian catastrophe.

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An Afghan family on the run in Pakistan.

French President Jacques Chirac has asked the United Nations (UN) to urgently convene a global conference on how to get more humanitarian aid into Afghanistan. Chirac said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and US President George W. Bush had already agreed to his suggestion.

Millions of Afghans are short on food as winter nears and US raids continue. Chirac recommended that a "significant public figure" coordinate the humanitarian measures.

France ready to send more troops

Chirac also said France was prepared to provide additional special forces to support the US-led attacks on Afghanistan. But the Paris government would have to know exactly what type of mission it would involve, and be included in the planning.

France has already mobilized 2 000 soldiers for the anti-terror campaign.

Italian Participation in Afghanistan

Italy will provide a 2 700-strong force for the US-led campaign against Afghanistan. It will include naval, air and ground units, Defence Minister Antonio Martino told parliament on Wednesday.

Martino said the majority of Italy's military contribution would be involved in logistical and defensive operations. But he added that a limited number of the contingent might be involved in combat operations.

He said the Italians would be placed under the direct command of the US military.

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