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CORRECTED: Afghanistan urges cooperation to defeat Taliban
(Corrects numbers of Danish troops, paragraph 11, and clarifies Danish troops not withdrawing by 2012, paragraph 13)
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan could oppose the presence of foreign troops on its soil if they do not cooperate with Afghan forces to defeat the Taliban-led insurgents across the country, the foreign minister said on Saturday.
President Hamid Karzai and his government have become more vocal in recent weeks in their criticism of Western forces in Afghanistan and their failure to quell the escalating Taliban insurgency after more than seven years of conflict.
Top Taliban and al Qaeda leaders are still at large and security is getting worse by the day, raising doubts about the prospects of stability in Afghanistan.
Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta said Karzai had recently told nations with troops in Afghanistan to dispatch their soldiers to the border to block militants moving from safe havens inside Pakistani territory.
Failure to do so would push the Afghan government to voice opposition to the presence of foreign troops.
"For the Islamic state of Afghanistan, it is by no means bearable any more for parts of our country to be under the occupation of criminals, drug traffickers, al Qaeda and terrorist Taliban," Spanta told a news conference.
"We earnestly want the international community to cooperate with Afghanistan's national police and army to bring back those areas under the government's control," he said. "Otherwise, Afghanistan's government will not agree (to the presence of foreign troops)."
MORE DANISH TROOPS
Spanta said he hoped the 41 nations with troops under NATO and U.S. command in Afghanistan would listen to the government's demand, but if they did not Kabul would rely on its own security forces, despite the dangers that would entail.
Spanta said he had raised the issue with his visiting Danish counterpart Per Stig Moller.
The Danish foreign minister did not refer directly to the demand in the joint news conference, but said foreign forces should focus on development projects once they clear militants from an area.
Denmark would also boost the number of its troops in Afghanistan from around 600 at present to up to 750 soldiers.
"The new troops will be ready from January 2009," Moller said, but did not say how many extra troops would be sent.
Denmark was implementing a strategy that would take it up to 2012, he said.
Most Danish troops are fighting under British command in the volatile southern province of Helmand, a Taliban stronghold which produces around half the world's supply of opium.
"Today the world has become so small that what happens here also affects us back home in Europe," he said.
(Editing by David Fox)
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