The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has officially reopened. Special Envoy for Afghanistan James Dobbins led the ceremony marking the symbolic return of the United States to Afghanistan

Ambassador Dobbins told a small crowd of invited guests that the United States and the international community largely ignored Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, but vowed that would not happen again.

He said the Afghan people paid a price for this neglect - and he said the terrorist attacks on September 11 showed that the United States did too.

Mr. Dobbins said the United States and the rest of the international community are ready to assist in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. He said Washington will remain engaged with Afghanistan's new government.

In a briefing with journalists before the ceremony, Ambassador Dobbins gave an optimistic assessment of the likelihood that a consensus can be reached among the various factions that comprise the new government.

He said it was not the international community imposing its will on Afghanistan, but Afghan's themselves who came up with the Bonn agreement - a document he described as a constitution for the interim government that takes office December 22.

He also praised Burhannudin Rabbani's call for all Afghanistan's factions to put aside their differences and work together. In a televised speech broadcast Sunday, Northern Alliance leader Rabbani called for an end to what he termed "warlordism" - the kind of factional divisions which had led to years of armed conflict that destroyed the country and paved the way for the Taleban's rise to power.

The small crowd of invited guests who attended the ceremony included interim Interior Minister Younis Qanuni and interim Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim.

A State Department spokesman said Washington will operate a liaison office in Kabul headed by Charge d'affaires Jeanine Jackson, pending the establishment of full diplomatic relations.

Turkey has also reopened its embassy in Kabul.