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Canada, the Netherlands Seek More NATO Troops for Afghanistan

Canada and the Netherlands are urging other members of the NATO alliance to send troops to southern Afghanistan to help fight Taleban militants.

The Canadian and Dutch defense ministers say they will lobby NATO members at talks in the Netherlands next month to become more active in Afghanistan's south.

Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay and his Dutch counterpart, Eimert van Middelkoop, made the comments Wednesday after meeting in the Netherlands.

Canada and the Netherlands have both contributed troops to NATO missions in southern Afghanistan, where Taleban insurgents are strongest.

Germany has about 3,000 ground troops and several reconnaissance jets serving with NATO forces in Afghanistan's relatively more stable north.

The German Cabinet agreed Wednesday to extend that mission by another year until October 2008. It has resisted pressure to shift German troops to the more dangerous south.

MacKay and van Middelkoop say they will coordinate their decisions about whether to extend their countries' missions in Afghanistan.

The Dutch military mission in Uruzgan province lasts until August 2008, while Canadian troops will remain based in Kandahar province until February 2009.

The governments of Canada, the Netherlands and Germany all face domestic public pressure to withdraw troops from Afghanistan because of military casualties in the fighting.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in a story published in a Dutch newspaper, NRC Handelsblad, Wednesday that no country providing help to NATO forces can afford to leave Afghanistan.

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