Gates to address security conference in Munich

Other News Materials 10 February 2008 12:06 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - US Defence Secretary Robert Gates was to confront his European allies on NATO's uncertain course in Afghanistan during a major security conference in Munich on Sunday.

Gates travelled to Germany after attending a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Vilnius. On Saturday he briefly met with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The defence secretary has been pressing NATO allies to commit more troops to Afghanistan and has invited them to find "creative solutions" to fill the shortfalls.

His efforts partly paid off on Saturday, when Germany signalled willingness to increase its troops by up to 1,000 men - from 3,500 to 4,500 - in spite of strong opposition at home.

The US provides more than half of the 43,000 forces that make up NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission.

Highlighting a lack of unity on the ISAF mission's strategy, Germany and other European members of NATO have urged the alliance to invest more in Afghanistan's reconstruction. The US says fighting the Taliban remains their main priority.

The annual roundtable at Munich's luxurious Bayerischer Hof hotel was being attended by nearly 400 high-profile delegates, including presidents, government ministers and security experts from some 50 countries.

The discussion on Afghanistan was due to be followed by a debate on the future of Russia featuring Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.