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Britain open to more troops in Afghanistan, Miliband says

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  • "If there are requests for help, we'll look at them hard," foreign secretary says
  • Britain currently has about 8,050 troops in Afghanistan
  • UK military commanders have warned against sending more troops to Afghanistan
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Britain is open to requests from U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to boost troop levels in Afghanistan, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said in an interview published Friday.

"If there are requests for help, we'll look at them hard," Miliband told The Daily Telegraph. "We have never been in blanket refusal."

Britain currently has about 8,050 troops in Afghanistan, a Ministry of Defense spokesman said. There are currently no plans to send in more.

Obama met this week with Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to a U.S. military official with direct knowledge of the talks.

The meeting came as Mullen is reviewing a formal request for forces from commanders in the field for 15,000 to 20,000 additional troops to send to Afghanistan in early 2009.

British military commanders have warned against boosting troop levels in Afghanistan. The head of the British Army, General Richard Dannatt, and the head of the British armed forces, Air Chief Marshal Jock Stirrup, have both said British troops are stretched by fighting wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Dannatt is due to step down next year and be replaced by an advocate of a troop surge in Afghanistan, General David Richards, who currently commands British Land Forces.

Miliband told the Telegraph that some in Britain believe the country bears an unfair share of the military burden in Iraq, and he repeated calls for other NATO allies like France and Germany to contribute more in Afghanistan.

"The British people don't want to feel it's always us who gets the nod," Miliband told the paper. "They want to know that others will do it."

The foreign secretary's comments came a day after the deaths of two British troops in southern Afghanistan. Their deaths brought to 128 the number of British troops who have died in Afghanistan since October 2001, the Ministry of Defense said.

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