Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, is to fly to London next week to tackle an escalating row over Nato troop reinforcements for Afghanistan, amid worries that the entire international stabilization strategy is in danger of failing.
Rice will also be talking to Gordon Brown and David Miliband, the foreign secretary, about finding a new candidate for the proposed UN "super-envoy" to coordinate aid efforts after President Hamid Karzai vetoed Lord Ashdown, who had been expecting to get the job.
Canada is already threatening to pull its troops out unless other countries do more. The US state department spokesman, Sean McCormack, told reporters in Washington yesterday. "I won’t make a secret of the fact that we are encouraging all Nato allies to do everything they can in terms of contributing resources."
Rice will also discuss Iran and Iraq.
Nato defense ministers are to meet in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius next week to try to find 7,500 more troops to reinforce the 42,000 already in Afghanistan.
Alliance divisions burst into the open earlier yesterday with a US demand that Germany, whose forces are in the relatively stable north, send combat troops and helicopters to the volatile south.
Robert Gates, the US defense secretary, sent an "unusually stern" request to Berlin, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.
But Germany’s defense secretary, Franz Josef Jung, refused to comply. "I keep to the view that we should continue and fulfil our mandate in Afghanistan," Jung said. "I believe our focus should continue to be in the north."
German chancellor Angela Merkel made clear that the limited mandate was "not up for discussion".
On Thursday Gates met similar opposition from his French counterpart, Hervé Morin, in talks in Washington. The mood in Paris and Berlin threatens a damaging replay of the transatlantic spats in the run up to the Iraq war five years ago.