Thu, Oct 02, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Armitage set for Pakistan, Afghan tour this week

AFP , WASHINGTON

US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will visit Pakistan, Afghanistan and other central Asian nations this week to discuss their cooperation in the US-led war on terrorism, the US Department of State said on Tuesday.

Armitage will visit Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and the United Kingdom from Wednesday through Oct. 8, spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Armitage told lawmakers earlier he would be visiting the southern Afghan city of Kandahar and Kabul during his stop in Afghanistan, where a US soldier was killed on Tuesday and two others wounded in a gun battle in the southeastern part of the country amid an upswing in violence against coalition troops.

He said he planned to discuss the security situation there as well as additional US assistance to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government now being requested from Congress.

Earlier this month, US President George W. Bush requested an additional US$1.2 billion in assistance for Afghanistan and named a new ambassador to the country.

But just US$800 million of the new funds are coming from Bush's massive US$87 billion request to Congress for postwar Iraq and Afghanistan in fiscal year next year.

The other nearly US$400 million will be reallocated from the existing 2003 budget to boost the package.

A third of the total will go towards training and support for the new Afghan National Army and police force while another 300 million dollars is to be spent on infrastructure, including roads, schools and health clinics, officials said.

The Pakistani foreign ministry announced Monday that Armitage, accompanied by Christina Rocca, the State Department's top envoy for South Asia, would arrive today in Islamabad.

They are to visit Afghanistan tomorrow and return the next day to the Pakistani capital, the foreign ministry said.

In Pakistan, Armitage said he would be following up on a meeting last week between Bush and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and discussing the growing problem of former Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents crossing the border into Afghanistan.

Armitage said he had confidence that Musharraf was sincere in wanting to help stop the flow from Pakistan's largely lawless tribal areas but could not say the same for others in the country's security services.

"I personally believe that President Musharraf is genuine when he assists us in the tribal areas and he has from his side of the border," he told lawmakers.

"But I do not think that that affection for working with us extends up and down the rank-and-file of the Pakistani security community."

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