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Bush, NATO Secretary-General Meet on Afghan Violence


President Bush is meeting with NATO's Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at his ranch in Texas to discuss a wide range of topics, including increasing violence in Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have joined Mr. Bush and the NATO leader for the talks - beginning with a working dinner late Sunday and continuing through Monday.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto says rising civilian casualties and their effect on Afghan public opinion is a high-priority issue at the meetings in Texas. NATO and American forces say the Taleban often uses civilians as shields for its fighters, causing many civilian casualties.

In eastern Afghanistan, a suicide bomber killed 10 people and wounded nearly 35 others Sunday at a crowded market, in Gardez, in Paktia province. The bomber blew himself up as a NATO convoy passed nearby, but there is no indications whether any soldiers were hurt.

The U.S.-led coalition has 26,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan, some of whom are under NATO command. The alliance's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan currently has 37,000 troops.

Another suicide attack similar to Sunday's blast killed nine people a day earlier in the northern city of Kunduz. Three German soldiers assigned to the NATO force were among the dead.

The Taleban has claimed responsibility for both attacks.

Meanwhile, in southern Ghazni province, officials say Afghan and NATO forces killed 30 Taleban fighters during a battle Sunday, and detained 10 others.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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