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Donor Countries Pledge Billions for Afghanistan - 2002-01-21

International donors have pledged several billion dollars in reconstruction aid for Afghanistan during a conference in Tokyo. Most of the funds will come from Japan, the United States, the European Union, and Saudi Arabia.

Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai told delegates from more than 80 countries and international organizations that his country needs up to $2 billion in the next year alone. He says the aid money will go to mine clearing, healthcare, education, and rebuilding the war-torn infrastructure.

Mr. Karzai promised the money would not be wasted. "We are fully committed to accountability, transparency and efficiency in the use of financial aid," he said.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and other speakers at the two-day conference vowed to support the country's reconstruction efforts for the long term.

They backed up their pledges with cash: the four co-chairs - the United States, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the European Union - each pledged $200 to $300 million this year, with more to come.

Sadako Ogata, Japan's envoy on Afghan affairs, told donors that the Afghan people have suffered under the Taleban and deserve the full support of the global community. "The Tokyo conference must succeed," she said. "We need firm and generous pledges. We need multi-year commitments. But we are not talking about money alone. We should constantly remind ourselves of the impact we will have on real people with real hopes."

World Bank chief James Wolfensohn said if Kabul's new leaders are to establish democracy, then they will need the international community's sustained support. He estimated Afghanistan could need as much as $15 billion in the next decade and the conference was off to a solid start. "I think for the first year, approximately $300 million from the United States, which will be $750 million if it is extended for two and one-half years, is a reasonable contribution," he said. "I think the Japanese contribution is also a reasonable contribution."

China also pledged a one-shot infusion of $100 million this year.

The conference has been billed as a make or break opportunity to reconstruct Afghanistan after nearly a quarter century of war. More aid pledges are expected before the conference ends Tuesday.