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U.S. toning down pleas for help with Afghan mission, Gates says

The United States will soften its appeals to NATO allies for more troops in Afghanistan, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Friday.

The United Stateswill soften its appeals to NATO allies for more troopsin Afghanistan, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Friday, recognizing that some European governments face opposition to the mission.

Speaking in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Friday, Gates said he would continue to make the case for greater military assistance in the fight against the Taliban, butwill do it differently.

Gates said he will keep in mind the "political realities" faced by some European governments whose people are strongly against intervention in Afghanistan.

Defence ministers from countries withtroops in Afghanistan's volatile south, including Canada, have gathered in Scotland's capital for two days of talks about the future of the mission.Ministersfrom Britain, Romania, Estonia, Denmark, Australia and the Netherlands were also at the meeting.

Gates said there will be "brainstorming" for ideas on how some NATO allies can contribute more.

Citing the example of an ally with helicopters but insufficient resources to outfit them for the harsh Afghan environment, he said such a country might get funds from another member to make the upgrade.

"We're going to try to look at this more creatively than perhaps we have done in the past when we basically have just been hammering on [allied governments] to provide more," Gates said in a post-meeting interview with a small group of reporters travelling with him from Washington.

Informal meetings of the group happen regularly and are an opportunity to discuss matters of mutual interest.

The bulk of the talks in Edinburghwere expected to cover familiar ground such as how to get NATO members to share more of the burden and how to complement military action with reconstruction.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, has about 41,000 troops from 39 contributing countries.

Canada has nearly 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, most of them in the southern Kandahar region.

With files from the Associated Press and the Canadian Press