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Italy Signs Deal to Provide Long-Term Aid to Afghanistan


Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti (R) and Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai shake hands after signing of documents during a meeting at the Chigi Palace in Rome January 26, 2012.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti (R) and Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai shake hands after signing of documents during a meeting at the Chigi Palace in Rome January 26, 2012.

Italy has agreed to a strategic partnership aimed at supporting Afghanistan after combat forces withdraw from the country in 2014.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti assured Afghan President Hamid Karzai that Italy "will not abandon Afghanistan," as the two leaders signed the long-term agreement Thursday in Rome.

The deal calls for Italy to assist Afghanistan in political, security, economic and counter-narcotics issues past 2014.

Italy has about 4,000 troops in Afghanistan. However, they are expected to withdraw along with the rest of the NATO-led contingent in 2014, handing responsibility for security over to Afghan forces.

Mr. Karzai stopped in Rome as part of a three-nation European tour.

On Friday, he plans to meet with France's President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris, before flying to London for talks with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron.

Mr. Karzai is expected to also establish long-term strategic partnerships with France and Britain.

On Wednesday, President Karzai met in Rome with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

During the meeting, Mr. Karzai praised Italy for the sacrifices made by its soldiers to maintain peace and security in Afghanistan. President Napolitano assured Italy's continued aid.

Before arriving in Europe, Mr. Karzai held talks with Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov in the city of Turkmenbashi.

The two leaders discussed economic and bilateral cooperation, including a gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan, and a railway line linking the two countries.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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