U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the first time since Obama's inauguration four weeks ago, the White House said Wednesday.

Obama's office said the U.S. president called the Western-backed Karzai overnight and the two men spoke about security issues and Afghanistan's presidential elections in August.

The conversation took place hours after Obama announced an additional 17,000 American soldiers would be sent to Afghanistan to fight the increasingly violent Taliban insurgency.

Karzai and former U.S. president George W. Bush spoke frequently, but the relationship between Kabul and Washington has been strained lately as Karzai publicly criticized foreign troops for civilian casualties during military operations.

The UN said earlier this month that civilian deaths in Afghanistan increased by 40 per cent in 2008 to more than 2,100 people.

'A new page'

Following the conversation with Obama, Reuters reported Karzai's spokesperson said: "We have opened a new page."

"Mr. Obama spoke with the president about various issues, including steps for improving security in the region, equipment and training of the national army, further strengthening of bilateral relations, and the increase of forces was also discussed," said presidential spokesman Humayun Hamidzada, Reuters reported.

With the additional 17,000 troops, set to arrive by the end of the summer, more than 55,000 American soldiers will be in Afghanistan.

Roughly 30,000 soldiers make up the NATO-led force in the country, including more than 2,500 Canadian soldiers in the violent southern province of Kandahar.

In an interview with the CBC on Tuesday, Obama said he would continue to ask other countries, including Canada, to help build a "comprehensive strategy" using diplomacy and development to counter the growing Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

He will meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Thursday during a brief visit to Ottawa, his first foreign trip since taking office in January.

With files from the Associated Press