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Abdullah, Powell Prepare for Afghan Leader's Washington Visit


Secretary of State Colin Powell Friday assured his Afghan counterpart, Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, that American interest in the Afghanistan's future will not end with the completion of U.S. military operations there.

Mr. Powell met for about two hours with the Afghan foreign minister to prepare for the Washington visit next week of the head of the country's interim administration, Hamid Karzai.

The talks focussed on security and aid issues, and with Mr. Abdullah alongside him in a talk with reporters, Mr. Powell repeated the pledge he made in Kabul last week that U.S. interest in, and support for, Afghanistan in the post-Taleban era will be long-term. "We're in it for as long as it takes and you can count on us. We did the military job, we're performing the humanitarian job, and we'll be there for the reconstruction effort," Mr. Powell said.

The Bush administration is giving a high profile to the Karzai visit in an effort to bolster the international standing of the fledgling Afghan government, with President Bush inviting the Afghan leader to be a guest of honor at his State of the Union address to Congress next Tuesday night.

In Washington appearances, Foreign Minister Abdullah has been upbeat about Mr. Karzai's first month in office, saying the interim has quelled long-running tribal feuds and created hope among Afghans after more than 20 years of conflict.

He has also urged that all foreign aid to Afghanistan be given to the central government in Kabul to bolster its authority this, amid news report that Iran has begun providing money and weapons to Afghan tribal leaders in the western part of the country.

Asked about the accounts here, Mr. Abdullah said he could not confirm them but said all the country's neighbors should avoid interference as efforts continue to create a representative, multi-ethnic government. "I have not seen evidences based on fact on it. But I would expect every neighboring country of Afghanistan to build its relations with our country on the principles which will be acceptable for both sides those principles will be mutual respect for the interests of each other, mutual respect for the sovereignty of each other and non-interference," Mr. Abdullah said.

As the Powell-Abdullah meeting was underway, officials in Washington were telling reporters that final preparations were being made for the release to Afghan authorities of more than $250 million in Afghan assets in the United States frozen since 1999 under anti-Taleban UN sanctions.

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