Afghan attacks will not erode international support: UK

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British Foreign Secretary William Hague insisted Tuesday the twin blasts at Afghan shrines that killed at least 59 people on a Shiite holy day would not undermine international commitment to the country.

Hague was among delegates at an international meeting in Germany on the future of Afghanistan a day before the blasts hit Kabul and the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif as worshippers gathered for the holy day of Ashura.

In a statement, he said he was "shocked by the sectarian attacks... on innocent civilians" in Afghanistan.

"Yesterday, I attended a conference in Bonn at which the international community pledged its long-term commitment to Afghanistan.

"That commitment will not be undermined by such acts of terrorism."

Delegates at the conference in Bonn agreed to extend international support for Afghanistan to 2024 following the scheduled withdrawal of all foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai was due to arrive in Britain later Tuesday, where he will sign a strategic partnership deal with London. He will hold talks with Hague and Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday.

In Tuesday's blasts, a suicide attack at the entrance to a riverside shrine in Kabul killed 55 and wounded 134. Four people were killed in Mazar-i-Sharif near the northern city's landmark Blue Mosque.

The Taliban denied responsibility for the attacks, blaming "the invading enemy" -- an apparent reference to the 140,000-strong foreign force in Afghanistan.

Britain is the second largest contributor to the force after the United States with around 9,500 troops, based mainly in the troubled southern province of Helmand.

© 2011 AFP

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