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Last Updated:  Thursday, 13 March, 2003, 18:05 GMT
Afghans seek huge aid increase
By Catherine Davis
BBC correspondent in Kabul

Afghan leader Hamid Karzai has called on foreign donors to triple or quadruple aid to Afghanistan if the country is to rebuild itself.

He said the needs of Afghanistan were much greater than those estimated at a donor conference in Tokyo in 2002, when $4.5bn was pledged over a five-year period.

President Karzai (from left) with Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi
Little has been done to rebuild the Afghan economy
President Karzai was speaking in Kabul at the start of a two-day meeting of the Afghanistan Development Fund attended by senior government officials and international donors.

He expressed gratitude for the assistance already given but he also made it abundantly clear that a lot more was needed - as much as $15-20bn according to his government's estimate.

Mr Karzai said that before the Soviet invasion in 1978, Afghanistan had been self-sufficient in agriculture.

It had foreign exchange reserves and had been one of the world's largest exporters of raisins.

"Our desire," he said, "is to reach at least that stage first, but it will take many years and international assistance."


This was not just a one-sided plea for help, though.

The president pointed to the reforms the country had already undertaken and said Afghanistan was well aware that it had to work hard to create its own resources.

His words were echoed by the finance minister, who stressed the importance of sustainability.

There is a sense here that, even in the capital, ordinary Afghans are growing tired of all the talk of reconstruction.

They want to see improvement - roads rebuilt, jobs, proper hospitals, not only the white jeeps of international agencies.

Security however remains a fundamental issue.

The United Nations envoy to Afghanistan said that if security did not improve this year the recovery and reconstruction process risked being undermined.

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Country profile: Afghanistan
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