MUNICH, Feb 10: German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Nato and the European Union to work together in Afghanistan, saying that this was “crucial for success” of efforts to defeat Taliban guerrillas and bring stability to the nation.

“In Afghanistan our alliance is being particularly tested,” Merkel told the Munich Conference on Security Policy. “It is indisputable that the Taliban are testing our determination.''

Commanders of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force fear the guerrillas may mount a spring offensive from their winter-safe havens in neighbouring Pakistan.

Nato and EU officials say that for their mission to succeed, the lives of poverty-stricken Afghans need to be improved so they are not tempted to side with the Taliban. But analysts remain skeptical that Afghanistan’s Western backers can make that strategy work on the ground.

“We must do everything to bring this mission to a successful conclusion ... that dovetails our military and civilian activities,” Merkel said.

“If we can achieve this, we are on the right tract,” she said.

The Nato-led force has about 35,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, and commanders have expressed confidence they are able to defeat any Taliban military effort in the coming months. But they have complained that, in the past, battlefield successes were not followed up by reconstruction aid to help rebuild regions devastated by the fighting.

About Iran row, Angela Merkel said the international community was resolved to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

“We are all determined to prevent the threat of an Iran with a military nuclear programme,” Merkel said.

Merkel said the Islamic republic must conform with international demands to stop enriching uranium “without ifs and buts and without tricks”.

“What we are talking about here is a very, very sensitive technology and so we need a high degree of transparency, which Iran has failed to provide, and if Iran does not do this it risks falling deeper into isolation,” Merkel said.

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani is attending the annual high-level gathering and will give a speech on Sunday.—Agencies

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