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Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 17:15 GMT 18:15 UK
Afghanistan scraps customs tariffs
Truck drivers playing cards
Bad roads and banditry often delay shipments
Afghanistan is to stop collecting customs tariffs on exports in order to boost trade and help rebuild its shattered economy, the country's finance minister has said.

He made the pledge a week ahead of a 60-nation meeting in Washington to co-ordinate aid for Afghanistan and discuss the best use of about $4.5bn of promised donations.

"We reached a conclusion that all goods should for now be exempted from tax and this will go on until trade is boosted and our main aim is to find jobs and food for people," said Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.

Afghan's main exports are its famous handwoven carpets, fruit, sheepskins and gems, including emeralds and lapis lazuli, a semi-precious blue stone.

'Poor and miserable'

The country is desperately poor after two decades of foreign invasion and civil war, exacerbated by drought and earthquakes, and lacks the most basic infrastructure.

A man carrying a sack of grain
International aid will go to rebuild roads

It has been described by the World Bank as "the poorest, most miserable state in the world".

Since the US-led battle to dislodge the Taliban government and its al-Qaeda allies in 2001, Afghanistan has been occupied by an international force of about 13,000 troops.

Mr Ahmadzai reportedly said the Afghan government has held talks with the United States, European nations and the Arab Gulf states to find ways of increasing Afghanistan's exports.

At present, most exports travel to neighbouring to Pakistan and to Iran.

The World Bank has identified road building as a priority. The US, Japan and Saudi Arabia have promised to build highways linking the three cities of Kabul, Kandahar and Herat.


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15 Jan 02 | South Asia
18 Sep 01 | Country profiles
19 Sep 01 | Business
21 Jan 02 | Business
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