Britain will pledge £200m to help rebuild Afghanistan

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The Independent Online

Britain will promise £200m today to help the reconstruction of Afghanistan during the next five years, as the world's richest donors gather in Tokyo for a two-day pledging conference that will test the West's commitment to the country.

Britain will promise £200m today to help the reconstruction of Afghanistan during the next five years, as the world's richest donors gather in Tokyo for a two-day pledging conference that will test the West's commitment to the country.

Clare Short, the Secretary of State for International Development, will promise the aid package when she joins the international effort to rebuild the the country.

As politicians and diplomats arrived in Tokyo, Afghanistan's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, appealed to the world.

"We need your help to bring a new life for those millions of children and women and wounded and disabled victimised by years of trauma and terrorism," he said.

"Help us begin a new life, help us stand again on our feet to make a country that will pursue its own values and traditions and will also contribute to a world community in terms of providing a better peace and work against terrorism."

The United Nations believes Afghanistan will need $15bn (£10bn) in aid during the next decade, much of it in the initial stage, although the Afghan interim administration believes that to be an underestimate.

Despite the offers, there is tension among potential donors about how the burden should be shared and there is scepticism over Afghanistan's ability to absorb huge sums.

The EU said it aims to make up one-quarter of the total, and called for all four groups who will co-chair the meeting – the EU, the US, Saudi Arabia and Japan – to be responsible for equal shares. Many in the United States feel America has already done its bit by fighting the war, and the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, may pledge only for the first year.

Japan has announced $500m (£345m) to be disbursed over two-and-a-half years. Germany announced a donation, saying it will make available some €320m (£195m) to be disbursed over four years.

The European Commission has offered €200m (£120m) for reconstruction aid this year.

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