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Alliance wants UK troops withdrawn

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Officials from the Northern Alliance say most of a group of UK special forces at an airbase north of Kabul must be withdrawn from Afghanistan, according to Reuters.

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The agency quotes an official as saying 15 of the 100 British troops who arrived at the Bagram base on Thursday can stay for humanitarian tasks.

CNN learned on Friday that the UK troops arrived at the base with 60 U.S. personnel in eight C-130 aircraft to inspect it for possible use in a large-scale humanitarian operation. The Reuters report did not refer to the U.S. troops.

Referring to the UK special forces, Engineer Arif, deputy chief of intelligence for the Northern Alliance -- which seized Kabul from the Taliban this week -- was quoted by Reuters as saying: "There are 85 of them who have come without any prior coordination in the name of humanitarian aid led by the United Nations.

"Our decision is that 15 of them can stay and the others go. If they accept 15 people then they can stay, otherwise all of them need to go," he said.

The comments followed a meeting on Saturday of alliance leaders. Earlier, the same official had said the alliance had to consider "the spirit of Afghanistan's people and our neighbours over the arrival of forces of foreign countries."

"Generally, we have no problem with a small group of aid workers monitoring and arranging flow or distribution of humanitarian supplies," Arif said.

"If they are civilian workers then we have no problem, but the way they have arrived is quite new. They had not consulted or agreed with us on this issue."

Reuters said Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah had spoken with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and that more talks were expected between the two sides later on Saturday.

"We will be reassuring the Northern Alliance about the nature of the deployment," a British Foreign Office spokeswoman told Reuters.

"There are naturally differences between the groups that make up the Northern Alliance. The important thing is for all these groups and the other factions in Afghanistan to work towards a broad-based government," the spokeswoman said.


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