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NATO Chief Reaffirms Commitment to Democracy in Afghanistan

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer assured President Bush at the White House Friday that NATO will continue defending democracy in Afghanistan.

He also expressed sadness over the recent death of Afghan civilians in NATO's operation in southern Afghanistan, but blamed Taleban insurgents for the tragedy, saying they use civilians as human shields.

De Hoop Scheffer met with President Bush to discuss NATO's peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan and the upcoming NATO summit in the Latvian capital, Riga.

Hours earlier, a bomb blast in southern Afghan province of Uruzgan claimed at least 14 more lives. Local officials say the latest attack occurred on a road leading to the provincial capital, Tirin Kot.

It was not immediately clear who may have been behind the blast, but Taleban militants have been blamed for most roadside bombings in the past.

Afghan officials say at least 60 civilians were killed in NATO operations this week. NATO officials say 12 civilians died, and that it is not clear if they were killed because of NATO or Taleban action.

The International Committee of the Red Cross urged both sides to spare civilians from attacks and respect international humanitarian law.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.