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Donors Pledge Billions for Afghanistan


International donors pledged billions of dollars in aid for Afghanistan at a meeting in Paris, but also urged Kabul to do more to fight corruption and instability. Lisa Bryant has more from the French capital.

The United States led donations at the Paris conference, as First Lady Laura Bush announced Washington would earmark more than $10 billion to help Afghanistan get back on its feet after years of warfare.

"We know that success will not be easy but Afghanistan has reached a decisive moment for its future. We must not turn our backs on this opportunity. Today the United States is dedicating $10.2 billion to help the people of Afghanistan implement their national development strategy over the next five years," she said.

The donors meeting was hosted by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, who announced his country would more than double reconstruction aid to Afghanistan to nearly $165 million between 2008 and 2010. Other pledges included $1.3 billion from the Asian Development Bank, $1.2 billion from Britain and $1.1 billion from the World Bank.

The Afghan government hoped to amass up to $20 billion in aid at the conference. Afghan President Hamid Karzai told donors his country needs $50 billion over the next five years to help turn around the shattered economy.

"Our vision for Afghanistan is achievable, however we should be aware of the obstacles in our path. Security continues to be out biggest challenge, without which progress on every other objective that we have will be either difficult or sometimes impossible," he said.

There are plenty of other problems: poverty, corruption, drug trafficking and a worrying Taliban insurgency, despite the presence of 65,000 troops in the country, many of them NATO forces.

Even as he urged donors to increase aid to Afghanistan, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urged them to hold the country's leaders accountable.

"I approved Afghanistan for signing the United Nations convention against corruption and I urge the government to take active measures to ensure that it is implemented. I also welcome the strong anti-corruption proposals in the strategy, including the need to prosecute high-level offenders," he said.

Afghanistan is also being discussed in Rome, where U.S. President George Bush met with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi during a European trip that takes him to Paris on Friday.