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Karzai: Send NATO troops now

Karzai: "The Afghan people ... are asking for increased participation of the international assistance security forces."
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Coalition Administrator Paul Bremer hands over the transfer document to Iraqis.

The coalition has transferred power to the Iraqi interim government.

NATO is expected to agree to help train Iraqi troops.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called on NATO to rush extra troops to his country as soon as possible to boost security ahead of September elections.

"I welcome very much your decision yesterday to send us security forces to help us with the elections," Karzai told leaders Tuesday at a NATO summit in Istanbul.

"But ... we need security forces today in Afghanistan to provide a secure environment for elections for the Afghan people and beyond.

"Please hurry," Karzai urged NATO.

"Come sooner than September and provide the Afghan men and women with a chance to vote freely without fear, without coercion."

NATO currently has a force of 6,500 troops in Afghanistan.

NATO envoys decided Monday to deploy roughly 1,500 extra military personnel in Kabul and the relatively stable north of the country during the elections, and a further 700 to take command of four "reconstruction teams" in the north.

The Afghan government has pressed the 26-nation NATO alliance to field forces in other, more violence-prone areas during the poll.

NATO agreed last October to expand its force in Afghanistan, but it has been unable to persuade many governments to provided the necessary troops and equipment.

Asked at a news conference in Istanbul Tuesday how disappointed he was with NATO's limited expansion, Karzai said the plan had never been for a countrywide presence and he was "happy" with what had been decided in Istanbul.

But in his speech to leaders of the alliance and 20 partner nations later, he said the Afghan people were looking for more.

"The Afghan people keep coming to me from all parts of the country and are asking for increased participation of the international assistance security forces," he said.

The plan for extra troops was one of three key decisions announced at the NATO summit Monday.

A second was and agreement to transfer NATO's Bosnia peacekeeping mission to the European Union at the end of the year.

The third decision, which dominated proceedings, was to agree that NATO would train security forces in Iraq -- but the details remain unclear after France and Germany objected to their forces being deployed on Iraqi soil. (Full story)

British Prime Minister Tony Blair told reporters Monday that the disagreements with France and Germany over whether the war was justified have not disappeared.

"On the other hand, what is important is you've got a United Nations resolution that has blessed the new government in Iraq.

"And you've got a situation in which we have accepted today that there is a good and sound NATO role, which is actually the only role we ever sought for NATO, of training and helping to train the Iraqis so that they can do their own security work, which is the request that they have made to us.

"And in that sense, I think the international community has come together, and I welcome it."

The 26 NATO leaders had gathered in Turkey's business capital with Iraq at the top of the agenda. Last week, alliance ambassadors in Brussels hammered out the deal to train Iraqi forces.

Security for the NATO summit remained tight, with more than 23,000 police on duty.

F-16 warplanes patrolled the skies of Istanbul, and NATO dispatched AWACS early warning planes to help monitor a no-fly zone over the city. Turkish commandos patrolled the Bosporus in rubber boats.

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