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Afghan Donors Conference Opens In Germany

Berlin, 31 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- An international conference of donors opened today in Germany with the goal of raising money for Afghanistan's reconstruction.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder opened the conference with a pledge that the international community would not abandon war-ravaged Afghanistan.

"Through your presence here in Berlin, you are underlining the importance that the development of Afghanistan has for the international community," Schroeder said. "We certainly have high expectations for this conference -- hopes for the people living in Afghanistan, but hopes for all of those who, in their hearts, value security and development in the world."

Representatives of nearly 60 countries gathered in Berlin for the two-day conference.

Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai's administration has said Afghanistan needs more than $27 billion in additional aid over the next seven years -- but officials have refused to set any fundraising target for the Berlin conference.

Afghanistan's progress on democratic reforms and improving security are also on the agenda.

The conference is also expected to discuss Afghanistan's opium production, which according to UN figures, accounts for about 75 percent of the world's heroin.