Donors' Conference Held in Tokyo

January 22, 2002 - 0:0
TEHRAN -- Donors' Conference for reconstruction of war-torn Afghanistan was opened in Tokyo on Monday.

Japan's Kyodo News Agency quoted Iranian Foreign Minister, Kamal Kharrazi, as saying he believed the interim Afghan government would function well after forming a military to maintain security as well as implementing other measures.

Citing the two countries' similar linguistic and cultural backgrounds, Kharrazi said Iran was prepared to help Afghanistan tackle many difficult issues, including controlling drugs and repatriating Afghan refugees peacefully.

After 20 years of war and economic upheaval in Afghanistan, Iran is host to some two million Afghan refugees.

Kharrazi also said that Iran is ready to extend over $10 million of emergency aid to the interim Afghan government. Speaking at the Afghanistan reconstruction conference in Tokyo, he added that Iran plans to donate $120 million in grants and loans to the interim government in 2002.

Kharrazi said that holding of the conference is testimony to the resolve of the international community for peace and security in the country. He also said that he believes the Afghan interim government could establish security in the war-shattered country. A high-profile aid meeting for war-ravaged Afghanistan headed for success on Monday after donors said they would give over $3 billion to rebuild the country to ensure it never again became a breeding ground for terrorism.

Kabul's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, promised to set up a credible government that could be trusted with the rebuilding but told aid donors in Tokyo that their money was needed quickly to shore up his fledgling administration.

"I stand before you today as the citizen of a country that has had nothing but disaster, war, brutality and deprivation against its people for so many years," Karzai said.

Afghanistan was one of the world's poorest countries even before a U.S.-led bombing campaign, launched in retaliation for the September 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

The offers of aid from the European Union, Japan, Saudi Arabia, the United States and others will back up promises not to walk away from Afghanistan once the U.S. campaign is over.

Donors agree that rebuilding Afghanistan is vital, but want to be sure the money is not wasted or funneled into the hands of rival warlords in a country still rent by internal strife. Karzai sought assurances aid would flow fast enough to keep his fragile government from losing credibility with the people. "While we understand the procedural requirements for the delivery of international aid, unfortunately, we have seen little sign from the international community in response to our urgent needs," he said.

Life expectancy in Afghanistan is 44 years, one in four children dies before age five and only three in 100 girls are enrolled in primary school.

Karzai's foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, said it would take time for the interim government to consolidate its control over the whole country but that this should not deter aid donors.

"We are talking about the reconstruction of a country which has been at war for 23 years...when you are talking about reconstruction, it is reconstruction in all aspects and security is one of those aspects," he told Reuters in an interview.

Among pledges so far, the European Union promised $487 million for 2002, while Saudi Arabia, a former ally of the Taleban, promised $220 million over three years.

The conference on the reconstruction of Afghanistan, is being attended by the ministers and high officials from 54 countries and 18 international organizations.

Meanwhile, Japan's special representative on Afghanistan affairs, Sadako Ogata here on Monday termed the Islamic republic of Iran as a "generous host" to the Afghan refugees for the past two decades.

Addressing the opening session of a two-day international conference on assisting Afghan reconstruction, she stressed that a stable Afghanistan will benefit the entire region.

Ogata, who also co-chairs the conference, said that it is important to reaffirm the two guiding principles of reinforcing the political process of establishing a permanent Afghan government and of a seamless transition from humanitarian assistance to recovery and reconstruction.