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Kabul FM Warns Against Foreign Interference In Afghanistan - 2002-01-25

Afghanistan's Foreign Minister is in Washington in a bid to consolidate political and financial support for the country's transitional, post-Taleban government. Minister Abdullah Abdullah is scheduled to meet U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and other U.S. officials during his visit Friday. He spoke Thursday to members of the Council on Foreign Relations, a leading U.S. research institute in Washington.

Doctor Abdullah's visit comes four days before a scheduled White House meeting between President Bush and Hamid Karzai, the head of Afghanistan's interim government.

Afghanistan's new leadership has secured a total of $4.5 billion in pledges of international foreign aid at this week's conference of international donors in Tokyo.

Speaking Thursday before the Council on Foreign Relations, the Afghan minister made it very clear that his country, devastated by more than 20 years of war, needs continued, strong foreign assistance. That, he said, includes help from the United States.

"The role of the United States in Afghanistan, first of all, the campaign against terror is not finished," he said. "The war against terror has not reached its objectives, fully. That will continue, that should continue."

The foreign minister is eager to shore up international political support for the transitional government. He said he is confident that Afghanistan can enjoy good relations with its neighbors, Iran and Pakistan, even if he criticized Pakistani leaders for supporting Kabul's now-deposed Taleban regime.

Dr. Abdullah also said he could not confirm reports in U.S. newspapers that conservative Iranian leaders worried about a U.S.-friendly government in Kabul have given weapons to Afghan warlords in an apparent bid to destabilize the fledgling leadership. However, he said any interference in Afghan affairs would hurt the entire region.

"It will be an extremely big mistake by any of our neighboring countries to resort to the old methods of interferences in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, rather than letting Afghanistan to decide its own destiny. It will be an extremely counterproductive attitude, and we don't expect that attitude from any of our neighboring countries," he said.

Dr. Abdullah told his audience foreign countries should respect Afghanistan's sovereignty while the interim government is trying to rebuild the country. He said an important task for the new leadership is to try to reintegrate women into Afghan society following five years of severe discrimination by the Taleban regime.

"Thousands of girls have enlisted for the university, Kabul University, which will start on 21st of March," he said. "Hopefully we will be able to run the university. It needs a lot of work to get it prepared. And tens of thousands of them have enlisted for the schools, which are also going to start on March 21."

Beside Secretary Powell the Afghan foreign minister is also scheduled to meet with members of the National Security Council during his visit.