France prepares to move staff from Afghanistan

PARIS Sun Feb 26, 2012 11:27am EST

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PARIS (Reuters) - France is making preparations to withdraw non-military personnel from Afghanistan, where protests over the burning of copies of the Koran at a NATO military base have killed 30 people including two U.S. army officers, a spokesman said on Sunday.

France condemned the fatal shooting of the two Americans and said its ambassador in Afghanistan was making arrangements to pull out French nationals working as advisors supporting the rebuilding of public institutions.

A foreign ministry spokesman said several hundred people would be concerned, but their actual departure could be halted depending on developments on the ground. French military would not be affected, he said.

France has 3,600 troops in Afghanistan as part of the 130,000-strong NATO-led force, mainly patrolling Kapisa, a mountainous province near Kabul. They are due to shift their focus in March to training and leave the country at the end of 2013.

Seven U.S. military trainers were wounded on Sunday when a grenade was thrown at their base in northern Afghanistan, as anti-Western fury deepened over the Koran desecration.

Despite an apology from U.S. President Barack Obama, riots raged across the country for a sixth day.

(Reporting By Catherine Bremer; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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