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London Afghanistan confab hailed a success as $10.5 bil. pledged+
[February 01, 2006]

London Afghanistan confab hailed a success as $10.5 bil. pledged+

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)LONDON, Feb. 1_(Kyodo) _ The two-day London conference on Afghanistan was hailed a success Wednesday as ministers announced that international donors had pledged a total in excess of $10.5 billion.

At the final press briefing at the close of the event, entitled "Building on Success," British Foreign Office minister Kim Howells said, "We can agree the conference has been a great success which hopes to build on the Bonn Agreement."

Howells said that such a significant sum ensured that Afghanistan would remain a priority and receive long-term support from a network of generous global donors.

"Our shared aim is to build a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan, respecting Islamic values and Afghan traditions. The London Conference has successfully created the framework for the next phase of this development," the joint statement issued by the co-chairpeople of the London conference said.

The United States' pledge of $4 billion topped the list of contributions, followed by $1.2 billion from the World Bank and $1 billion from the Asian Development Bank.

Britain was keen to emphasize that the drugs trade in Afghanistan would be a key area to tackle if the country was to see true development, dedicating a proportion of its pledged $885 million towards a planned counter-narcotics scheme, with the rest going directly to the government.

"We see real quality in Afghan ministries and want to see this developed," Howells said, adding that the government would only be able to build confidence in the people of Afghanistan if it had the capacity, through extensive and guaranteed funding, to plan ahead.

After Germany, Japan made the sixth largest pledge of financial aid to Afghanistan in the figure of $450 million, which, alongside all the other commitments is due to be allocated over the coming years with the two key aims of deepening the international partnership and ultimately strengthening Afghan ownership.

Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah expressed his delight at the outcome of the conference, saying, "It is already great news for the people of Afghanistan that after four years of working together, it will continue."

He told journalists that the point of bringing the international community together in London for a conference on Afghanistan was not merely to produce a "few figures," but to work towards actual implementation of the aims and objectives for the country, adding, "I'm sure that with some spirit we will go on."

Afghan Minister of Finance Anwar ul-Haq Ahady -- also present at the press conference -- brushed aside accusations that the donated sum was made up of "old money" that had been donated before, or that pledges would not be followed through with hard cash.

"It is a misperception that money gets pledged and not delivered...some countries inevitably give a little less but some give a little more," he explained, confirming that while 20 percent of the money had been pledged before, all $10.5 billion was available now for Afghanistan to use in order to secure a healthy future.

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