Kabul - Afghan leaders have agreed to accept an international security force of 5 000 troops in the country, defence ministry officials said on Tuesday.

A formal agreement was expected to be announced on Tuesday night, the officials said.

There have been several days of tough negotiations since British Major-General John McColl arrived to plan the security force.

Deployment of the force is part of an accord under which an interim government led by Hamid Karzai will take office on Saturday.

The Northern Alliance, which forced the Taliban out of Kabul and dominates the new government, had wanted the size and duties of the force to be limited to defending government ministries.

Last week the new defence minister General Mohammed Fahim said he wanted a maximum of 1 000 soldiers just to protect the fledgling government.

Britain is expected to lead the international force and McColl met Fahim and other leaders on Sunday.

Barnab Salihi, a Afghan defence ministry official present at Sunday's meeting, said: "They have agreed on 5 000 or more peacekeepers but they have not signed anything yet."

Another ministry official, Gul Duldin, said: "The problem is no longer the size of the force, it is its mission and where it will be based." - Sapa-AFP