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France, Germany withdraw staff from Afghan ministries

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Afghan demonstrators burn a US flag during a protest against Koran desecration in Helmand province on February 23, 2012.

Germany and France have withdrawn their staff from Afghan ministries after two US forces in Kabul were shot dead, as tensions over the desecration of the holy Quran by US-led forces intensify.

“The Risk Management Office on Sunday morning ordered its German and international experts in agencies and ministries to be withdrawn” in the Kabul area, the German cooperation ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

Cooperation Minister Dirk Niebel said that the measure was a “reasonable precautionary” and “as soon as the situation has calmed down the staff will resume their work,” adding that Germany would stick to the commitments made in the Afghan conflict.

Meanwhile, the French foreign ministry said earlier Sunday that its embassy in Kabul was temporarily withdrawing all non-military personnel from Afghanistan.

The French foreign ministry said several hundred people would be concerned, but their actual departure could be halted as soon as “conditions permitted.” French military would not be affected.

On February 20, US soldiers burned the copies of the Holy Quran and other Islamic texts at the US-run Bagram Airbase, southeast of the city of Charikar in the Afghan province of Parwan.

On Saturday, NATO confirmed that two high-ranking US officials have been killed in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul.

Following the Qur’an desecration US President Barack Obama sent a letter to his Afghan counterpart Hamed Karzai, apologizing for the actions of American forces in Afghanistan.

Obama told Karzai that the incident was not intentional, which has sparked angry protests against US and NATO forces in Afghanistan and other Asian countries.

More than 35 people, including two US troops, have been killed as a result of violent clashes over the past few days.


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