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Obama, NATO chief discuss Ukraine, Afghanistan

U.S. President Barack Obama and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen met on Tuesday at the White House and discussed situations in Ukraine and Afghanistan.

Rasmussen's visit "underscores the vital importance the United States places on NATO as the cornerstone of our alliance with Europe and the importance of Rasmussen's leadership at this critical time," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told a press briefing.

On Ukraine, Obama and Rasmussen discussed "the implications of Russia's aggression for European security" and the efforts the United States and other allies have been making over the past several months to reassure all allies of NATO's commitment to collective defense, Earnest said.

The leaders spoke about the need to improve allied defense investment and to bolster the defense capacity of NATO's vast network of partners, the spokesman said.

Obama and Rasmussen also spoke about Afghanistan and planning for NATO's non-combat mission beyond 2014, he added.

After the meeting, Rasmussen told reporters that Afghanistan must sign a security agreement before the NATO summit in Wales in September, or there will be severe problems after 2014.

He also urged contenders in Afghanistan's presidential election to work with electoral authorities "to find a solution that ensures a credible outcome" of the election.

In May, Obama announced his plan to leave 9,800 American troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014 and emphasized that the presence of the troops is tied to the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement with the Afghan government. The two final candidates in the runoff of Afghanistan's presidential election have each indicated that they would sign the agreement promptly after taking office.

[Source: Xinhua, Washington, 08Jul14]

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