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Medvedev Says Afghan Peace Vital

ROME — Russia is willing to do its part to help the United States and Europe achieve peace in Afghanistan, President Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday.

“We are obliged to help in Afghanistan. … What the armies of the United States and Europe are doing [in Afghanistan] is peacekeeping. This is very important because a threat for all Europe came from Afghanistan,” Medvedev said.

Speaking at a news conference in Rome after meeting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Medvedev made some of his most positive remarks about the prospect of bringing peace to Afghanistan since U.S. President Barack Obama announced an increase in American troops there two days earlier.

“President Obama, as a partner, called me and spoke to me of his new ideas for the work to be done in Afghanistan. I appreciated this. This is a serious position, and we are ready to support the efforts of our partners, even with the possibility of transit that Russia permits,” he said.

Russia already permits military cargo headed for Afghanistan to be moved across Russian territory.

Medvedev said Russia was willing to help Afghanistan in its efforts to transform its economy, its military and its police forces, without giving details.

“There will be a contribution from us, but only the government there can place order in its own country,” he said, adding that he had spoken recently to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

More than 20 countries plan to send more troops to Afghanistan following Obama’s increased commitment to the war, NATO said Thursday, but the overall number falls short of U.S. expectations.

On Tuesday, Obama announced that he would send 30,000 more U.S. troops to join the fight against the Taliban-led insurgency, and Washington wants up to 7,000 more troops from its allies.

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