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Afghan President Sees Long Way Ahead in Reconstruction, Reform

Afghan President Hamid Karzai indicated on Wednesday that his country still faces major tasks in reconstruction and reform.  

Speaking at a two-day international donors' conference on Afghanistan in Berlin, Karzai said: "There is much that has been achieved in Afghanistan in partnership with the international community." 


"What we have achieved is very promising, but let me be frank and say that the job of reconstruction and reform in Afghanistan has only begun," he added.


"The bright future we seek may be distant, but the journey has started and the prospects are promising," Karzai said. "Afghanistan wants to be a model for prosperity and moderation in the region and we Afghans are dedicated to realize this vision. We do not want to slip back into the havoc of drugs and terrorism."


Meanwhile, a senior UN official said Afghanistan still faces major challenges in political, economic and security areas despite remarkable achievements in the past two and a half years.


Those challenges include arranging a free and fair election, reconstruction of infrastructure and economic development, said Lakhdar Brahimi, special adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.


He said the most serious test for Afghans and the international community is in the field of security, adding that "security assistance remains one of the most important contributions -- if not the most important -- that the international community can make."


"This conference is a unique opportunity for all those gathered here to send a clear and unequivocal signal to the people of Afghanistan: 'Together we have come a long way, and together we will continue until peace and stability are achieved in Afghanistan,'" Brahimi said.


Delegations from 56 countries as well as numerous international organizations attended the conference which will review political, economic and security aspects in Afghanistan.


Afghan plea for US$27.5b aid as donors' talks open


German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Wednesday called for more international aid to help Afghanistan gain a more secure future.


Addressing the opening session of the international donors' conference on Afghanistan, Schroeder said the positive development in Afghanistan has shown "what we can achieve if we bind our power."


"We want, together with Afghanistan, to build a partnership for future," said the chancellor, adding that the United Nations has taken a key role in Afghanistan and fulfilled its responsibility in a very prominent way.


During the session, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to present his government's request for US$27.5 billion in aid for the next seven years.


Schroeder said his government will provide 320 million euros (about US$400 million) for Afghanistan's reconstruction in the next four years. Germany has contributed the same amount in the past two years.


Sadako Ogata, special representative of the Japanese government, said Japan is prepared to offer US$400 million over the next two years, bringing the total Japanese contribution to US$1 billion since September 2001.


(Xinhua News Agency April 1, 2004)

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