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Afghanistan: Karzai Asks Donors Conference For Reconstruction Aid

Tokyo, 20 January 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Afghanistan's interim government leader Hamid Karzai today issued a plea for international help to reconstruct Afghanistan ahead of an international donors conference. Speaking in Tokyo on the eve of ministerial meetings of an international donors conference, Karzai said his war-torn country needs assistance to repair basic infrastructure and improve desperate living conditions.

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

Germany today pledged some $280 million in reconstruction aid during the next four years. German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said the aid will be used to rebuild schools, restore the legal system, and improve the status of women.

Other countries are expected to pledge aid tomorrow and Tuesday (21-22 January). The United Nations Development Program estimates that Afghanistan needs some $9 billion in reconstruction aid during the next five years. The World Bank and IMF have said as much as $15 billion is needed in the next 10 years.

Karzai yesterday received a $20 million donation from Saudi Arabia after talks in Riyadh with Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. That money is ear-marked as emergency aid to help the interim government in its day-to-day operations.