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Afghanistan: Foreign Minister Calls For Sustained Engagement

Foreign Minister Abdullah (file photo) Afghanistan's foreign minister says this month's parliamentary elections showed the will of the Afghan people to create a real democracy. But Abdullah Abdullah also urged the international community to remain engaged in stabilization efforts, saying the country still faces "too many urgent priorities" involving security and reconstruction.

Washington, 26 September 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah says security and narcotics trafficking remain long-term challenges as his country enters a new phase of rebuilding.

One week after parliamentary elections in his country, Abdullah said in a speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies that stabilizing Afghanistan will be a "painstaking job."

"In a country which has too many priorities and too many urgent priorities, we need to fight -- continue the fighting against terrorism," Abdullah said. "That continues. A lot has been achieved in that front, but it will continue for some more years to come."

Sustained Help

Abdullah urged sustained international help for what he called the total defeat of Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters, as well as handling problems like reducing opium cultivation and repatriating millions of refugees.

NATO and other countries deployed in Afghanistan have given no signs of an immediate draw down in forces. But Abdullah sought to counter any perceptions that the country is now a guaranteed success story because it has adopted a constitution and held presidential and parliamentary elections.

At the same time, Abdullah echoed comments of other Afghan officials and elections organizers that the vote was a successful step along Afghanistan’s path to democracy.

"Despite all the threats, despite some of the attempts by the Taliban which led to the killing of too many people during those periods before elections, prior to elections, the people went for voting and they voted for their candidates and hopefully in a few days time we will have the initial results," he said.

Complete preliminary results are expected to be issued by 4 October. Final certified results are due on 22 October.

Relations With Neighbors

Abdullah said as the post-conflict Bonn process comes to a close Afghanistan is developing new relations with its neighbors.

The foreign minister said security cooperation with Pakistan is crucial to combat infiltrations of Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters from border areas.

U.S. national security adviser Stephen Hadley made similar comments earlier in the day in Afghanistan. Pakistan says it has already deployed more than 70,000 troops as part of an extensive campaign against infiltrators, but the issue remains a sore point between the two neighbors.

An estimated 1,300 people have been killed in renewed fighting with Taliban insurgents in the past six months. Many of the dead have been rebels killed in battles with U.S.-led coalition forces.

But Abdullah said the Afghan government also needs to take more steps to develop areas on its side of the border with Pakistan as a way of nullifying support for Taliban fighters.

Washington And Tehran

In an interview with Radio Farda on 25 September, Abdullah praised Iran for its help in Afghanistan's reconstruction. He also expressed concern about tensions between Washington and Tehran.

"We only hope that the current problems surrounding Iran's nuclear program will be solved peacefully and will not cause more tension in the region," Abdullah told Radio Farda. "Improvement of the relationship between Iran and the U.S. will have a positive effect on Afghanistan, and we just hope that our region will remain stable."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said on 26 September that the United States will not tolerate what he called a "pattern of deception and concealment" on Iran's nuclear program. Washington hopes to bring the matter to the UN Security Council later this year. Iran says its program is for peaceful energy uses only.

(Radio Farda's Parichehr Farzam interviewed the foreign minister and Fatemeh Aman translated his comments for this report.)

See also:

"EU Commissioner Urges New 'Compact' For Afghan Aid After Elections"

"NATO Looks To Expand Mission After September Elections"