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Rice Asks NATO Allies to Reach Deeper for Aid to Afghanistan


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked NATO allies Friday to do more to help Afghanistan, and pledged extra U.S. troops and aid to help defeat the Taleban. For VOA, Teri Schultz reports from Brussels.

Secretary Rice's push came amid growing concern over the resurgence of the Taleban in southern Afghanistan, increases in opium production and deepening tension between Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.

Her appeals were met with few immediate new offers among European governments. Many European ministers said they are already making significant contributions and are overstretched by military commitments around the world. They said additional money and troops should come from countries now making few, if any, contributions. France and Germany, for example, have refused to deploy troops to Taleban strongholds in the south and east.

Nevertheless, Secretary Rice told NATO that they had better be prepared to reach deeper into their own pockets.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said he believed Rice was persuasive.

"What she had to say in the meeting triggered a number of other nations to do more in and for Afghanistan," he said.

However, Scheffer did not give any details of new pledges. He said getting specific contributions was not the purpose of this meeting, but he did say he was confident that more money would be given to Afghanistan.

"We have heard more nations stepping up to the plate as far as their activities are concerned in the field of reconstruction and development," he added.

Though NATO officials did not go into detail about the amount of new aid, officials at European Union headquarters in Brussels gave out some figures.

Commission spokeswoman Emma Udwin announced a new package of aid worth about $780 million targeted at reform of Afghanistan's civil sector.

"We're focusing our aid over the next coming years on governance, improving governance and public administration, and reform of the justice system. This is our top priority," she said.

Udwin said the commission gave about $1.3 billion to Afghanistan between 2002 and 2006, but noted the figure was exceptional in the aftermath of the overthrow of the Taleban in late 2001.

EU officials will officially present the package to Afghan representatives at a meeting in Berlin on Monday. Next month NATO defense ministers will hold a session in Seville, Spain where de Hoop Scheffer will want specifics on who is willing to give what to Afghanistan and when.

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