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NATO Leaders Pledge to Continue Afghan Mission

NATO is pledging to continue its mission in Afghanistan, despite the presence of resurgent Taleban and al-Qaida forces and a dispute among its members over how and where troops will be deployed.

The alliance issued a lengthy statement Wednesday at the end of a two-day summit in the Latvian capital of Riga. Leaders of the 26-member security alliance promised to commit "the forces, resources and flexibility needed to ensure the mission's success."

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer says that several countries have agreed to lift restrictions on the use of their forces deployed in the Muslim nation. Many nations have now agreed to deploy troops to the south in the event of an emergency.

Germany, France, Spain and Italy earlier had resisted calls to send their troops into the Taleban-dominated south.

Mr. de Hoop Scheffer said the NATO leaders also support a proposal by French President Jacques Chirac to create a contact group that would coordinate political, military and economic efforts to rebuild Afghanistan.

The leaders also formally declared that the alliance's new 25,000-member rapid reaction force is fully operational and ready to deal with emergencies anywhere around the world.

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