The Taliban, which has increased its attacks across Afghanistan this year, claimed it carried out the Kandahar bombing, which also wounded at least 11 people.

Regional co-operation  

The envoys were holding a full day of closed-door talks at the official out-of-town residence of Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, at La Celle-Saint-Cloud in the Paris suburbs.

"It's about working together in a concrete fashion on regional co-operation whether it be on broad political issues or questions of security and economic relations," Eric Chevallier, the French foreign ministry spokesman, said.

Taliban fighters and other armed groups fighting Afghan, Nato and US troops in Afghanistan launch attacks across the border from neighbouring Pakistan, and Islamabad has been accused of not doing enough to stop the fighters.

But Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan's foreign minister, insisted that progress had been made.
  
"There's a greater level of confidence between the leadership of Afghanistan and Pakistan," he told reporters in Paris.
  
"We have a well-defined road map between Afghanistan and Pakistan but we've got to have the other players involved."

Iranians absent

US officials have also accused Iran of shipping arms into the country.

French officials said that the meeting would be used to encourage the Pakistan and Iran nations to do more to stop movements across their borders.

"We have a well-defined road
map between Afghanistan and Pakistan but we've got to have the other players involved"

Shah Mehmood Qureshi,
Pakistan's foreign minister

However, the Iranian delegation, which had been expected to include Manouchehr Mottaki, the foreign minister, failed to show up for the conference.

French-Iranian relations were strained earlier this week after the foreign ministry in Tehran summoned the French ambassador to express its "strong objections to the recent interfering comments by the French president".

Sarkozy had said it was "impossible for me to shake hands with someone who has dared to say that Israel should be wiped off the map," and that he would not "sit at the same table" as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his Iranian counterpart.

Officials had already played down the prospects of tangible progress during Sunday's conference, noting that little in the way of policy can be decided before Barack Obama, the US president-elect, takes power in January.

The conference follows on from a meeting in June at which countries promised more than $20bn in aid to help with the reconstruction of the country.

Military burden

Obama has said that more US troops could be moved to the frontline in Afghanistan once Washington starts pulling its forces out of Iraq next year, but few other policy details have been announced.

About 70,000 troops from the US and other nations are deployed in Afghanistan to help combat the Taliban, which has been gaining in strength, according to recent reports.

Three Canadian soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Kandahar province on Saturday, after four British soldiers were killed in attacks the previous day. 

Gordon Brown, Britain's prime minister, visited Afghanistan on Saturday and called on other Nato nations to share the military burden.

"That means that other countries have got to play their part, as well as Britain and America, in making it possible for us to have the troops on the ground and the equipment on the ground that is needed," he said.

Other European nations could provide more air support or financial assistance to the war effort if they are unable, dueto political considerations, to put more troops in the ground, US officials have suggested in the past.