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EU to Boost Afghan Aid

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Europe will increase its aid to Afghanistan despite concerns the situation in the central Asian country is deteriorating. The decision was announced during a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

European Union foreign ministers expressed concern not only about the security situation in Afghanistan, but also about the lack of sufficient progress in political reform there. Speaking in Luxembourg, Foreign Minister Carl Bildt of Sweden, which holds the rotating EU presidency, announced the bloc would step up its support, including its civilian aid, which currently totals about $1.5 billion per year.

"There's a new recognition in the global debate that while security efforts in Afghanistan are exceedingly important, critical, we can never succeed if we don't manage to build a basic state with basic governance that can provide basic security in the area between Central Asia and South Asia," Bildt said. "That requires a lot of strategic patience an this is not going to happen overnight. And it requires clearly a more determined effort on the civilian and political sides. And here the European Union is now - I wouldn't say taking the lead -- but clearly stepping up efforts."

Bildt's remarks came at the end of a two-day meeting of EU foreign ministers that touched on a wide range of topics. Among other decisions, they announced an arms embargo and sanctions against leaders of the military junta in the West African country of Guinea. The EU also dropped remaining sanctions imposed against Uzbekistan, following a 2005 crackdown on an uprising there.

Separately, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana reacted cautiously to reports that Iran would accept the broad lines of a UN proposal to enrich Iranian uranium overseas -- but only if "important changes" were made.

"The deal was a good deal. I don't think it requires fundamental changes. But let's see what it [Iran] means [by] fundamental changes," Solana said.

The EU ministers' meeting comes ahead of a summit of European leaders at the week's end. The leaders are expected to discuss a number of key issues, including European commitments on fighting climate change, ahead of a December climate change summit in Copenhagen.