Clinton and Miliband hold talks on Afghanistan

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The Independent Online

Britain and America are working closely to ensure their Afghanistan strategy is as "clear, as effective and as decisive as possible", David Miliband stressed today.

The Foreign Secretary was speaking following talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ahead of her meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown later today.

Mr Miliband said the pair had held a "detailed, intensive and productive" meeting in which Afghanistan and Pakistan topped the agenda.

He hailed the "shared strategy" on Afghanistan and said the two countries were working closely together to ensure the coalition effort was "as clear, as effective and as decisive as possible".

They also discussed efforts to broker agreement on the devolution of policing powers in Northern Ireland ahead of Mrs Clinton's visit to Dublin and Belfast as part of her five-day tour of Europe.

Iran was also on the agenda with Mrs Clinton stressing that the international community would not wait "indefinitely" for the country to fulfil its international obligations.

On Afghanistan, Mrs Clinton reaffirmed the US commitment to the country and said she was very clear that al Qaida posed a "direct threat" to the US and Britain.

She has been conveying President Barack Obama's views on the military campaign in the country.

Despite a steady flow of British casualties, Mr Brown has signalled he is willing to send around 500 more troops to bolster the UK's force in Helmand province.

However, the increase is contingent on other Nato allies sharing the burden, and a new Afghan government being in place.

At a joint press conference in London Mr Miliband said: "There are big decisions ahead... for the whole of the coalition led by the US.

"We are working very very closely together in Afghanistan and in our capitals to make sure that the coalition effort is as clear, as effective and as decisive as possible."

Mrs Clinton praised the bravery of British troops and added: "Our strategy remains the same - we are committed to Afghanistan.

"We are very clear that the conjunction of al Qaida and elements of the Taliban and other extremists pose a direct threat to our two countries and to the world.