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UN expands Afghan peacekeeping mission
( 2003-10-14 09:21) (Agencies)

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Monday to expand the 5,500-strong NATO-led force in Afghanistan to areas beyond the capital, Kabul.

The vote, which had been expected, comes after Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on the world body last month to deploy peacekeepers into regions where increasing lawlessness is causing many Afghans to long for the security that marked the rule of the rigid Taliban regime.

The Afghan government, which took over after the U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban militia, has little control in most of the 32 provinces, where governors often rule like warlords with private militias. Karzai warned that unless the world steps up its reconstruction aid and sends more troops, Islamic radicals could regain control in Afghanistan.

"This resolution helps pave the way for the increased security in Afghanistan upon which nearly everything else is dependent," said John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and the council's president for October.

The 15-member council approved the decision in a speedy meeting Monday without debate, after NATO's secretary-general, Lord Robertson, sent Negroponte a letter seeking a vote on the German-drafted resolution

Taliban and al-Qaida rebels have been launching increasingly bold assaults in recent months, raiding police stations, killing aid workers and confronting U.S. troops in growing numbers.

Many of the attacks have taken place in the south and east of the country, near the border with Pakistan. Afghan and Western officials have long complained that the insurgents have found a safe haven in Pakistan, crossing the border frequently to launch attacks.

Germany's U.N. Ambassador Gunter Pleuger is leading a Security Council mission to Afghanistan on Oct. 31 to study the work of the United Nations and the peacekeeping mission.

NATO took over command of the multinational force in August from Germany and the Netherlands. German and Canadian troops make up the bulk of the current force.

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