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Europe

Afghanistan Can Count on EU Support

Germany promises sustained European Union aid for Afghanistan's reconstruction as negotiation talks between Afghan factions kick off near Bonn.

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All eyes on Germany's Foreign Minister Fischer.

Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer opened the Afghan conference near Bonn by assuring the participating delegates that they can count on Europe for help.

"We want the people of Afghanistan to know that they will not be left on their own when the conflict with the al-Qaeda terrorists and the Taliban regime comes to an end," he said at the opening ceremony in the German government's Petersberg guest house on Tuesday morning. "The European Union is ready to make a considerable long-term contribution towards Afghanistan's economic and social recovery."

According to Fischer, Germany has already set aside about 80 million euro for this purpose. "We will concentrate, above all, on restoring education and administrative infrastructure and on empowering women and girls to make a contribution to civil society," he said.

Afghan representatives should seize the moment

Fischer asked the delegates to set a political signal for the international community. "I urge you to forge a truly historic compromise that holds out a better future for your torn country and its people," he said.

But the burden of peace rested on the Afghans themselves, Fischer added. "The responsibility is yours. No one can relieve you of it and no one wants to."

Difficult Consultations

The some 30 Afghan delegates are expected to hold talks among themselves to the end of this week or longer. International representatives are present on the sidelines, urging them to find a solution to overcome over two decades of war.

A central difficulty will be determining who will head the future government. Another point of dispute is who will fill the key posts of defence, interior and financial minister.

The United Nations and foreign diplomats say speed is essential in the negotiations. Several areas have already reported highway robberies, extortion and plundering of aid convoys. Many Afghan citizens now fear a return to the anarchy that reigned when rival factions battled for power and money before the Taliban takeover in the mid-1990s.

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