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French President Visits Kabul After 10 Troops Killed

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy visited French troops in Kabul Wednesday to pay respects to ten French soldiers who were killed in a fierce battle just 50 kilometers outside Kabul. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from neighboring Pakistan on the deadliest combat encounter since the start of the Afghan war in 2001.

Nicolas Sarkozy rushed to Afghanistan hours after reports that the soldiers had been killed in fierce clashes with some 100 Taliban militants in the mountains east of Kabul.

Speaking before French troops at a NATO base in the Afghan capital, the president said France pays tribute to the memory of the soldiers.

He said they fulfilled their duties to the fullest and it cost them their lives, which reminds us that being a soldier is a job like no other.

Mr. Sarkozy also visited the 21 troops wounded in this encounter, which NATO officials described as an ambush of a French-led reconnaissance mission in mountainous terrain.

There are more than 2,500 French troops in Afghanistan and Humayun Hamidzada, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said this attack would not affect France's commitment to the country.

He said the French president stressed that the incident would not affect relations between Afghanistan and France and he reassured Mr. Karzai of France's commitment to the struggle against terrorism.

Violence across Afghanistan has sharply risen this year, along with record opium harvests. Afghanistan's president has blamed his own government and international allies for failing to pay enough attention to the militant problem. Afghan officials have also said militant sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan have allowed the groups to grow stronger.

Pakistani officials counter that Afghanistan's booming opium trade and Afghan government corruption have worsened the militancy problem, which they say is causing instability in their own country.