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UN to Seek Expanded Peacekeeping Operation in Afghanistan

The U.N. Security Council is planning prompt action to authorize an expanded international peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan. U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte says the authorization should be approved before he and other Security Council ambassadors visit Afghanistan late this month.

Ambassador Negroponte says plans are moving ahead quickly for a resolution enlarging the 5,500-strong NATO-force known as ISAF. He told reporters the Security Council would try to act promptly on NATO's request to add thousands more troops so it can expand operations outside Kabul.

"I think we're hoping between now and end of month to have a resolution," said Ambassador Negroponte. "That's being worked at the moment. We have just received, and as a matter of fact I haven't had time to study it in detail, a letter from Secretary General of NATO which will now in turn enable us to consider a resolution to expand ISAF's mandate beyond Kabul and its environs."

The request to expand the ISAF force comes as Washington's special envoy to Afghanistan is warning that remnants of the Taleban may be planning larger, more spectacular attacks in the weeks ahead. Taleban operatives are blamed for much of the recent surge of violence that has left 300 dead - many in the south and southeast of Afghanistan - in the past two months.

The ISAF operation, which has been run by NATO since August, currently has a limited mandate to keep order in the capital, Kabul. But Afghan President Hamid Karzai has asked repeatedly for international assistance in the provinces, where his government has little real authority. Many of the provinces are run by regional warlords with little or no allegiance to Mr. Karzai.