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Wed, Nov 21, 2001 - Page 5 News List

Powell to launch Afghan reconstruction meeting


US Secretary of State Colin Powell is due to open a day of Afghan reconstruction talks today attended by representatives of some of the world's richest nations and institutions.

Powell will open meetings co-chaired with Japan at the State Department which will pave the way for an international conference in Pakistan from Nov. 27 to 29 hosted by the World Bank and intended to help rebuild a country devastated by decades of war, years of famine and weeks of a US-led bombing campaign.

The aim is to underpin a political framework being hastily constructed for Afghanistan with billions of dollars.

At least 14 governments, international organizations and banks will attend the Washington talks, with Japan represented at deputy foreign minister level and the US team led by Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Alan Larson and Under Secretary of State of Treasury John Taylor.

Christina Rocca, assistant secretary of state for South Asia affairs, said last week the one-day conference would concentrate on possible projects in agriculture, water, sewerage, mine clearing, health and education.

She said she hoped the event would help serve as an incentive for Afghans to participate in a broad-based government.

The international community, taken by surprise by the rapid collapse of Taliban power, is scrambling to patch together a coalition of Afghans to run the country.

"This is just a first step in a process that we foresee will expand to include all members of the international community committed to a prosperous future for Afghanistan," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said last week.

Invitations have gone to Canada, Germany, Russia, Britain, Italy, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the Afghan support group chaired by Germany, the EU presidency in Belgium, the European Commission and the Organization of the Islamic Conference chair in Qatar, Reeker said.

Representatives from the World Bank, the UN, the Asian Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank have also been asked to attend the talks which Reeker said were not a pledging conference.

The US meeting had originally been planned for the UN, according to reports by diplomats and UN officials. No explanation was offered for why the venue was changed.

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