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France to Stay Course in Afghanistan

The French lower house voted Monday to continue with and beef up its mission in in Afghanistan despite crumbling public support for the deployment.

French troops atop a tank in Afghanistan

French troops have learned a lesson from the Aug. 10 ambush, says the French president

The lower house of Parliament voted 343 to 210 to keep France's 3,300 troops in Afghanistan and nearby areas.

The upper house, the Senate, will also vote on the issue.

The votes Monday are the first under a constitutional amendment approved in July that requires lawmakers to vote on any foreign military operation lasting more than four months, news agency AP reported.

The French government is also to send more helicopters, equipment and an extra 100 troops to Afghanistan following the recent death of 10 of its soldiers in an ambush near Kabul, Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Monday.

"The President of the Republic (Nicolas Sarkozy) and government have learnt the lesson from this murderous ambush," Fillon said, adding that the reinforcements would arrive within a "few weeks."

"Concretely, Caracal and Gazelle helicopters, drones, listening devices, and supplementary mortars will be sent, along with the corresponding troops, that is to say around 100 men," he said.

Controversy over deaths

The parliamentary vote came amidst a controversy provoked by the deaths of the10 French soldiers on Aug. 18 in a firefight with Taliban rebels east of the Afghan capital Kabul.

A funeral service for the French soldiers killed Aug. 18 in Afghanistan

The deaths of 10 French soldiers in Afghanistan erroded public support for the war

The publication of a "classified NATO report" in the Canadian daily Globe and Mail Saturday, alleging that the soldiers had been badly equipped, further heated the debate.

According to the putative report, the French soldiers ran out of ammunition after 90 minutes of fighting and had only one radio in their possession, which ceased functioning shortly after the fighting began.

The defence ministry has denied the existence of any formal NATO report and Fillon said the French contingent was well armed, with some three tons of munitions used up by the soldiers during that fighting.

French, German anti-war protests

The French move to continue with its mission comes amid deepening unease among Europeans about the conflict in Afghanistan as a resurgent Taliban inflict increasingy casualties.

The Aug. 18 attack on French troops has deeply eroded public support for the military mission with an opinion poll in L'Express magazine last week showing that 62 percent of French people were against their troops remaining in Afghanistan.

A woman with a peace flag walks past a pantomime at an anti-war rally in Berlin Sept. 20

Protests throughout France and Germany were held to call an end to the war in Afghanistan

On Saturday Sept. 20, thousands of people in Germany and Britain took to the streets calling for soldiers deployed in Afghanistan to be brought home.

Demonstrators, who had been mobilised by 250 pacifist groups and trade union organisations, carried banners with slogans including "Give peace a chance - Bring the troops back from Afghanistan."

More than 5,000 people protested in Berlin and Stuttgart police there said, while some 2,000 turned out in Paris, according to French police.

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