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Troop levels in Afghanistan insufficient, Bill Clinton tells London seminar
The Associated Press

Published: September 26, 2006

LONDON The resurgence of the Taliban and the growth of the poppy harvest in Afghanistan are signs there are insufficient coalition troops in the country, former U.S. President Bill Clinton said Tuesday.

Clinton, addressing an audience at London's Royal Albert Hall, also said the global hunt for al-Qaida leaders must be intensified and warned that fighting terrorism through military methods alone carried a risk of encouraging people to turn to extremism.

"There are not enough troops to serve the country (Afghanistan)," he told delegates, some of whom had paid up to 300 pounds (US$570; €446) to attend the lecture.

Securing governance in Afghanistan and tracking al-Qaida suspects were the two key global priorities faced by the world today, he said.

"I think it is important that the fight against terror secures a genuine Muslim democracy in Afghanistan and that we intensify the hunt for the leaders of al-Qaida, because they are still by far the most dangerous global network with global targets," Clinton said.

But Clinton, who will address the annual conference of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's governing Labour party Wednesday, said the fight against terrorism would be far more successful if the world's powers used a twin track approach, which also involved efforts to reduce poverty.

"The military options are always by far the most expensive," he said.

He said the popularity of the United States soared in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, after his country's efforts to help survivors of the 2004 Asian Tsunami.

"We need to find ways to recreate the circumstances that are forced on us by disasters... it's always less expensive than going to war and the return on the investment is very high," Clinton said.

The former president said that he did not believe Iran's nuclear program was the world's most critical problem. That, he said, was the risk of terrorists acting independently of nations and their potential ability to access nuclear weapons.

Clinton said that in seeking out potential terrorists, nations had to guard against killing innocent people or ruining the livelihoods of innocents.

"You may be recruiting two or three or four potential terrorists for everyone you take out," Clinton told the audience.

Answering questions from members of the audience, he named the world leaders he had the greatest respect for.

Though he listed many statesmen, President Nelson Mandela of South Africa and the late architects of the failed Middle East peace plan of the 1990s, Yitzak Rabin of Israel and King Hussain of Jordan, were those he "loved," Clinton said.

Later, Clinton addressed a summit for the charity organization The Fortune Forum, which campaigns against global poverty, climate changes and diseases in the developing world.

He was presented with a British Red Cross humanitarian award by Hollywood actor Michael Douglas.

"Most of you will have no way of knowing this but I admire Michael Douglas very, very much and I was delighted when I heard he was going to be here tonight," Clinton said.

"I was delighted to see him earlier today and delighted that he and Catherine Zeta-Jones married and I realized he would be well cared for in our old age."

Douglas said the president was a unique individual, saying his "special spirit has yet to reach its peak on the world stage."

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