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Afghanistan: Donor Countries Pledge $1 Billion In Aid

Tokyo, 21 January 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Big donor countries pledged more than $1 billion in aid for Afghanistan on the first day of a two-day donors' conference in Tokyo. The UN Secretary-General Kofu Anon told delegates from 60 nations that Afghanistan will need some $10 billion in aid over the next five years alone.

But he said after two decades of civil strife, Afghanistan had new hope. "Today in Afghanistan a window of opportunity is opening, through it we can see a country drawing back from the brink of devastation."

Japan has pledged $500 million over the next two and a half years. The U.S. said it will provide $296 million this year, and Saudi Arabia said it will give $220 million over three years. The European Union announced it will contribute about $500 million this year.

India pledged $100 million in aid for Afghanistan's reconstruction, and Australia said it will contribute $40 million.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the conference's goal was more than just financial aid: "Our shared goal is to help the Afghan people rebuild a politically stable, economically viable, secure Afghanistan, an Afghanistan where terrorism and traffickers can never again flourish."

The head of the interim Afghan government, Hammed Kara, had said he hoped to return to Kabul with "full hands" from the two-day conference, which concludes tomorrow.

The Afghan Islamic Press, AIP, says that fighting has erupted between rival factions of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. Today's AIP report says supporters of Afghanistan's former President Burhanuddin Rabbani and Uzbek warlord General Rashid Dostum had been fighting in northern Kunduz province since yesterday.

Both sides are partners in the central interim government in Kabul. But AIP says they resorted to heavy weapons to gain control of Qala Zaal district, situated about 60 kilometers northwest of Kondoz city, close to Tajikistan's border.

Rabbani's Jamiat Islami group controls Kondoz city and dominates the central government in which Dostum is deputy defense minister.

The two factions were uneasy allies in the battle against the Taliban militia from 1996 until the hard line Islamic regime crumbled in the face of U.S. bombing in November.

The AIP fighting report could not be independently confirmed.