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Nato summit

Nato to send 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan, protesters set a hotel on fire

Article published on the 2009-04-04 Latest update 2009-04-05 12:04 TU

Firefighters battle flames at a hotel burnt by anti-Nato protesters near the European bridge between Strasbourg and Kehl, 4 April 2009(Photo: Reuters)

Firefighters battle flames at a hotel burnt by anti-Nato protesters near the European bridge between Strasbourg and Kehl, 4 April 2009
(Photo: Reuters)

Anti-Nato protesters set a Strasbourg hotel on fire Saturday, and destroyed other buildings. As smoke billowed over the Rhine river, Nato allies agreed to send an additional 5,000 troops to Afghanistan. Also on Saturday, Turkey backed down on vetoing the nomination of the Danish Prime Minister as the alliance’s new Secretary General.

“I can see in front of me about two giant plumes of smoke rising into the sky,” said RFI’s Marco Chown Oved in Strasbourg, standing on the Europe Bridge over the Rhine.

“They are on the other side of the river, and I’m not able to approach them because the bridge is covered in riot police. They’re not letting anyone cross the bridge. And there are about four or five helicopters overhead.”

Eyewitness: RFI's Marco Chown Oved in Strasbourg

04/04/2009 by Annette Gartland

Protesters set a hotel on fire after burning a custom’s office and a pharmacy in a mall, reported Oved.

“We’re not sure if there were people inside the hotel at the time,” he said. “There were no ambulances called the scene, just fire trucks.”

Police fired teargas and flash grenades to disperse the crowds.

A peaceful protest rally in Strasbourg, 4 April 2009(Photo: Reuters)

A peaceful protest rally in Strasbourg, 4 April 2009
(Photo: Reuters)

Meanwhile, at the summit meeting Nato allies backed US President’s Barack Obama’s call for a greater role in Afghanistan, and agreed to send up to 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

This would include 3,000 soldiers on short-term postings to provide security for the Presidential election in August, according to Robert Gibbs, spokesperson for Obama. Nine hundred of these would come from Britain, 600 from Germany and 600 from Spain.

Later, some 1,400 to 2,000 troops would be available to train the Afghan army, and a new paramilitary mission would provide trainers and mentors for the Afghan police. The alliance also agreed to expand a fund to support the Afghan army with a downpayment of 100 million dollars (74 million euros).

The alliance will be overseen by Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Turkey had been threatening to veto his appointment as Nato’s next Secretary General, but was convinced not to by Saturday afternoon.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters that the US President would help resolve Turkey’s concerns about Denmark’s handling of the controversial anti-Moslem cartoons published in a Danish newspaper in 2005.

“Our President [Abdullah Gul] said ‘OK’ [to the nomination] after receiving information that Obama will be the guarantor of resolution of the problems relating to the reserves we had expressed,” he told reporters.

Oved reports that Rassmusen pledged to stabilise Afghanistan as his first priority running Nato.