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Germany: Berlin Preparing Aid Program For Afghanistan, Won't Support Wider War

Germany says it will soon send a team of experts to Afghanistan to help rebuild war-damaged government buildings and homes. It is also seeking teachers, including women, to help reopen the German school in Kabul. Germany's development minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, said Germany believes it is essential to show that Europe intends to fulfill its commitments to help rebuild the country.

Munich, 4 December 2001 (RFE/RL) -- An advance team of German specialists has already been to Kabul to assess the Afghan capital's most urgent needs and what Germany can do to alleviate them.

Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul told reporters that, initially, Germany will allocate some $73 million to repair government buildings, hospitals, schools, and other administration offices in Kabul.

This is in addition to the $44 million it has already set aside for humanitarian help for Afghanistan. Some of this money is already being used to finance the almost-daily aid flights containing blankets, medicine, and food to Turkey, from where they are taken to Afghanistan.

The minister said Germany has identified five areas where help is urgently needed in rebuilding civil society in Afghanistan. These are nutrition, health, agriculture, water supplies, and education. She said Germany will also press for a greater role for women in the new Afghan society, particularly in the areas of health and education.

"Women should be represented in important management roles in the rebuilding of their country. They have special skills in regard to health and education, but they can also play an important role in influencing the direction of the government."

The minister said that, initially, Germany's role in rebuilding a civil society will focus mainly on the capital but will expand into other areas when the situation allows.

Germany has a long history of providing development aid to Afghanistan. Since before World War II, it has helped to build roads, bridges, reservoirs, and schools. It also helped in the creation of teacher-training schools in Kabul and other parts of the country.

Wieczorek-Zeul said most of the German money will be spent on bilateral aid. Only a small amount will go to a trust fund being created by the United Nations. However, she said Berlin will coordinate its bilateral projects with those organized by the UN and other international bodies.

Wieczorek-Zeul said the West should aim to avoid the situation that occurred in other global crisis areas, such as Kosovo and East Timor, where the international community created a civil administration before it had agreed on how it should be financed.

Germany's decision to begin its own Afghan aid program comes as the government, led by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, is making clear its reluctance to participate in military actions against countries other than Afghanistan believed to be supporting terrorists.

Schroeder said in Berlin yesterday that expanding the military war against terrorism beyond Afghanistan -- for example to Iraq or Somalia -- would make it difficult to maintain the international coalition against terrorism. He said the German government will not support military action against other countries. Opinion polls show many Germans are also uneasy about contributing troops to a proposed international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan.