Donors fail to meet Afghanistan's demands

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The Independent Online

Afghanistan was promised millions of dollars in aid to help rebuild the war-ravaged nation by international donors meeting in Berlin yesterday. But the amounts pledged fell far short of Kabul's demands for a massive seven-year $27.5bn (£15bn) package to halt the country's spiral of violence.

Afghanistan was promised millions of dollars in aid to help rebuild the war-ravaged nation by international donors meeting in Berlin yesterday. But the amounts pledged fell far short of Kabul's demands for a massive seven-year $27.5bn (£15bn) package to halt the country's spiral of violence.

Opening the two-day conference attended by representatives from 50 countries and the United Nations, the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, urged donor nations to stay on track in helping his country to move towards democracy and stability. "I ask you to recommit yourselves to the vision of a stable and prosperous Afghanistan that can be self-sufficient within a decade. That requires your sustained assistance," he said. The Afghan President stressed that despite the advances made since the American-led bombing campaign ousted the Taliban regime in 2001, the country was still largely in ruins and plagued by a stubborn Taliban-led insurgency and militias run by regional warlords responsible for a worsening opium cultivation problem.

With opium production accounting for about half of the Afghan economy, Mr Karzai said his government was launching a fresh drive this month to destroy poppy fields. Britain has so far sought to stem the problem by buying up the crop from farmers. Germany has insisted that alternatives should be found to growing opium. "Drugs in Afghanistan are threatening the very existence of the Afghan state," Mr Karzai said.

As the meeting got under way at Berlin's heavily guarded Intercontinental hotel, pledges of financial support were made by Germany, which offered $390m over the next four years; Japan, which pledged $400m over two years; and the European Union, which offered €200m (£133m) over three years.

Gerhard Schröder, the Chancellor, delivered a thinly veiled snub to the United States by comparing the "model" developments in Afghanistan to the chaos of post-invasion Iraq, where the United Nations has been denied a controlling influence. "The UN has taken the leading role in the country and lived up to its responsibilities magnificently," he said.

Afghan officials admitted yesterday that they did not expect to secure the full amount. The last donor conference, in Tokyo in 2002, secured $4.5bn.

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