NEWS

Greek troops will stay in Afghanistan

More Greek soldiers will be sent to Afghanistan, the government said yesterday, despite protests by a group of anti-war campaigners in Athens demanding that the troops already there as part of a peacekeeping mission be returned home. «We are not thinking about pulling Greek forces out of Afghanistan,» government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said yesterday. Two Greek soldiers were slightly injured on Monday when a suicide bomber drove into a convoy of seven Greek vehicles. «Greece… has international obligations which it has to live up to,» Roussopoulos said. There are 128 Greek soldiers currently in Afghanistan, providing assistance to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the country. They were joined by another 45 troops in August, who are responsible for a mobile army surgical hospital near the airport in Kabul. It is the second-largest military hospital in the country and is due to keep operating for the next 15 months. Roussopoulos said that 44 officers from the Greek air force would arrive in Kabul in January to take over the administration of the city’s airport for four months. Members of the Stop the War coalition, however, protested outside the Defense Ministry in Athens yesterday, demanding that the government withdraw Greek troops from Afghanistan. Several left-wing politicians added their voices to calls for Greek soldiers to pull out. Nikos Voutsis, an MP for Synaspismos Left Coalition, said the government was «fully responsible» for the injuries suffered by the two Greek soldiers. «Greek public opinion demands that there is a full and immediate disentanglement of our country from the American venture in Afghanistan,» Voutsis said. Meanwhile, the United Nations ordered its staff to stay at home or their offices in Kabul yesterday, in the wake of the attack which injured the Greek soldiers and another suicide bombing which killed a German peacekeeper, injured two of his compatriots and killed three Afghans.