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Clinton Speaks to France’s Juppe Over Possible Afghan Pullout

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe spoke by telephone yesterday evening about France’s threatened early withdrawal from Afghanistan, the French foreign ministry said in an e-mailed statement.

President Nicolas Sarkozy suspended operations with the Afghan army and said France may withdraw its troops from the country after an Afghan soldier killed four of its military personnel, the second time in a month an Afghan soldier has killed French troops.

Defense Minister Gerard Longuet and Admiral Edouard Guillard, chief of staff, are in Afghanistan to assess the situation, and Sarkozy said in a speech Jan. 20 that he’ll decide on the future of France’s 3,900 troops in the country based on their report. Sarkozy meets Afghan President Hamid Karzai Jan. 27 in Paris.

“The President of the Republic will draw all the consequences of the attack against our forces,” the foreign ministry said in the statement. Clinton offered her condolences for the deaths, which bring to 82 the number of French military personnel killed in Afghanistan.

Longuet told reporters in Afghanistan that the Afghan soldier who killed the French troops was a Taliban infiltrator.

Karzai today told Longuet that the the shooting “was an isolated case by an individual who is in custody and being investigated,” according to a statement from Karzai’s office.

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