U.N. renews NATO troop mandate in Afghanistan

UNITED NATIONS Thu Sep 20, 2007 12:14am EDT

1 of 2. A NATO-led soldier looks over a mud wall to Taliban insurgent positions during a firefight in southeastern Afghanistan, July 3, 2007. The U.N. Security Council authorized NATO-led troops to stay in Afghanistan for another year on Wednesday and gave the Japanese government support in its domestic dispute over refueling American and other ships in the Indian Ocean.

Credit: Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council authorized NATO-led troops to stay in Afghanistan for another year on Wednesday and gave the Japanese government support in its domestic dispute over refueling U.S. and other ships in the Indian Ocean.

The vote was 14-0 with Russia abstaining in the resolution that emphasized "the increased violent and terrorist activities by the Taliban, Al Qaeda, illegally armed groups and those involved in the narcotics trade."

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has close to 40,000 soldiers in Afghan to combat the country's former Taliban rulers, toppled by U.S. and Afghan forces in 2001.

New in the resolution is a sentence expressing appreciation to NATO and contributions from many nations to ISAF, which includes Japan, "including its maritime interdiction component."

Japan's top government spokesman, Kaoru Yosano, welcomed the resolution.

"It is very important that Japan's refueling activity was evaluated highly by the United Nations and members of the U.N. Security Council," Yosano told reporters in Tokyo.

"We have confirmed that our refueling activity is in accord with what the United Nations wants."

The leader of Japan's main opposition Democratic Party, Ichiro Ozawa, has opposed extending Japan's mission to refuel coalition ships in the Indian Ocean, in part because he says the activities lack direct U.N. permission.

The U.N. backing could help resolve the standoff between Japan's ruling coalition and the Democrats and a showdown over the issue in parliament.

But the Democrats stood firm.

"There is no change in our stance," Democratic lawmaker Kenji Yamaoka told reporters.

"(The resolution) creates misunderstandings for the people, and if I may use harsher words, it deceives them."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe abruptly announced his resignation last week after a troubled year in office, citing the confrontation over the naval mission as the main reason.

The Democrats and their opposition allies won control of parliament's upper house in a July election and can delay legislation to extend the mission beyond a November 1 deadline.

But the reference to maritime interdiction prompted Russia to abstain and China to criticize the resolution, although it voted in favor.

"A decision was made to give priority to domestic considerations of some members of the United Nations," Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said. "But we believe our main responsibility is to the Security Council."

Churkin noted that the mandate for ISAF did not expire for another month and council members should have "exerted every effort to get unanimity."

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Afghan President Hamid Karzai are leading a high-level meeting on Afghanistan on Sunday at U.N. headquarters.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who was born in Afghanistan, said the group would discuss security, narcotics, governance, regional cooperation and economic development.

The resolution also recognizes the need to further strengthen ISAF and asks countries "to contribute personnel, equipment and other resources."

And it condemns "in the strongest terms" suicide attacks, abductions and other violent action against civilians and international forces "and their deleterious effect on the stabilization, reconstruction and development efforts.'

The document singles out the Taliban "and other extremist groups" for using civilians as human shields.

(Additional Yoko Kubota and Teruaki Ueno in Tokyo)

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