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Donor Nations Discuss Afghan Aid in Berlin - 2001-09-27

Delegates from the United States, international aid organizations, and 14 other nations have met in Berlin to pledge humanitarian aid for Afghanistan.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and the top United Nations official for humanitarian affairs, Kenzo Oshima chaired a meeting Thursday of the so-called Afghanistan Support Group.

Their object was to drum up a sum approaching the figure of $252 million requested this week by the United Nations refugee agency. The UNHCR appealed for the money to meet a growing refugee crisis in Afghanistan and neighboring countries.

Foreign Minister Fischer said he would start the round by adding about $14 million from his ministry's own budget to money already pledged by the German government. A ministry official said afterwards that would bring the total German pledge to about $23 million.

As president of the support group, Mr. Fischer told senior civil servants from the United States, Canada, Australia, Russia, and a number of other European countries and aid organizations that he wanted to send two clear signals to Taleban officials.

One signal, he said, is that the international community will not leave the starving Afghan people alone in their hour of need, but will use every possible means to bring humanitarian aid to them. He said the second signal, is that the world is prepared to make a contribution towards the reconstruction of the country.

After 20 years of war, Mr. Fischer added, the world wants to contribute to a new Afghanistan in which terror had no place.

The German foreign minister said the trail of terror was leading more and more clearly to Afghanistan and to Osama bin Laden, who has been named by the United States as the prime suspect in terrorist attacks in New York and Washington earlier this month.

Mr. Fischer roundly attacked the Taleban, saying it cares nothing about its own people. He said Afghanistan's rulers are prepared to keep the people hostage and "pull them down with them into the abyss."

The German foreign ministry said after the meeting that it will take a day or two for the delegates to consult their governments and come back with a pledge. But he expects the final amount will be somewhere in the region of the $252 million that the UNHCR requested.