Blair says Taliban 'clearly in retreat'

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has warned that despite the Taliban's apparent retreat from its Afghanistan strongholds the coalition's objectives have not been met.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has warned that despite the Taliban's apparent retreat from its Afghanistan strongholds the coalition's objectives have not been met.

He told a Downing Street press conference that a UN presence is required in Afghanistan "as soon as possible".

The British Prime Minister also stressed the importance of the various factions within Afghanistan being brought together to replace the current regime.

He said that any successor regime must include the Pashtuns, who are the same ethnic group as the Taliban, must be backed by the people of Afghanistan and aided and supported by the coalition.

Mr Blair also offered Kofi Annan the UK's full support in ensuring that humanitarian aid reaches those who need it.

He said the Taliban is "clearly in retreat" and in some places in "a state of collapse", but he added: "Osama bin Laden is still at large and the Taliban is not yet defeated."

He also thanked British troops who aided the Northern Alliance advance, saying they had "acquitted themselves brilliantly".

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