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Donors Raise Enough Money to Fund Afghan Budget

U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill says international donors have raised enough money to fund Afghanistan's budget for the next fiscal year. Mr. O'Neill made the announcement on the same day the U.S. Congress passed an economic aid bill for Afghanistan totaling more than $3 billion.

Afghan President Hamid Karzi recently issued a plea for more international assistance, saying his poor nation has not received the money the world promised to provide following the collapse of the Taleban.

On the eve of a trip to Afghanistan, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill told reporters enough money has now been raised to fund operations of the Afghan government. "You may know earlier, maybe two months ago, we had a conference of donors here in Washington at the State Department and at that point we were $140 million short of the cash that was needed for the next fiscal year and I believe we have now closed that gap," he said.

Mr. O'Neill is making his first trip to Afghanistan and says he wants to personally view how financial assistance provided by the United States and other countries is being used to rebuild the war-ravaged country.

The treasury secretary says accelerating the reconstruction process will help create stability and growth in Afghanistan. "I view this as not only a duty we in the world have to the people of Afghanistan, but also as an opportunity to demonstrate that we can deliver international development assistance that creates real results and concrete improvements in the lives of individual citizens," said Mr. O'Neill. "In that context, our reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan are not only vital to the lives of the Afghan people, and important for securing Central Asia against terrorist influences, they must serve as a model for what effective foreign assistance programs the world over can achieve."

Mr. O'Neill's remarks came on the same day the U.S. Congress approved a $3.3 billion aid bill for Afghanistan.

The aid will be transferred over the next four years.

The legislation authorizes $1.7 billion for economic, humanitarian and development assistance. It also includes $300 million to establish an enterprise fund to encourage private sector development as well as $300 million for military and other security assistance for Afghanistan.