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London Conference Brings New Pact for Afghanistan

Afghan leaders and some 70 foreign partners have signed a new five-year pact under which Afghanistan is to promote stability and development in return for military and economic support.

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Blair to Karzai: "We will be there with you at your side"

As British Prime Minister Tony Blair opened a two-day conference on Afghanistan's future in London, he vowed that the world would stand firm alongside the war-torn country in its fight for freedom, moderation and democracy.

The London conference has brought major world powers together to sign a five-year deal aimed at helping Afghanistan defeat a resurgent Taliban and opium traffickers.

Blair said winning that fight was vital not only for the Afghan people but for the entire international community.

He told Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the London summit: "That's why this is a struggle that, of course, primarily concerns the Afghan people, but it is also a struggle that concerns all of us."

"That's why we are here today. That's why we are determined to see this through and why, whatever your challenges, we will be there with you at your side, helping you."

The United States pledged an extra $1.1 billion (908 million euros) in financial aid to support the Afghan people in the next fiscal year, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the conference.

"For us, it is a strategic partnership," she said.

German participation

Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Frank-Walter Steinmeier referred to Germany's efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also assured delegates that Afghanistan would remain a focus of Germany's foreign policy.

Germany is the largest provider of troops in Afghanistan after the US, and the Germans currently command the ISAF stabilization forces in the north of the country.

Steinmeier also reminded the conference that international aid for Afghanistan began four years ago with a meeting of Afghan and international representatives at the Petersberg hotel in Bonn.

The Petersberg process started the ball rolling for Afghanistan's reconstruction following the ousting of the Taliban, and ended in December with the country's first parliamentary election in 36 years.

Now, a new phase is begnning, Steinmeier said.

Three critical areas

Bundeswehreinsatz in Afghanistan

The German army currently controls ISAF troops in northern Afghanistan

The new Afghanistan Compact includes specific targets in three "critical and interdependent areas" -- security, governance, rule of law and human rights, and economic and social development.

Among the plan's goals are, for example, the disbandment of all illegal armed groups by the end of 2007, the implementation of a justice and reconciliation plan by the end of 2008 to deal with human rights violations during the past 25 years of war, and improvements to sanitation, roads, and basic health services.

Welcoming the pledge for further military support, Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned the conference that "terrorism and narcotics represent the gravest of threats," even though his people had made "great strides towards peace, stability and democracy."

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is deploying thousands of extra troops to parts of southern Afghanistan where Taliban members and drug traffickers are working together.

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