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China Pledges More Afghan Aid

Asia: Beijing will add $150 million to the $4.6 million it has already promised to its war-torn neighbor.


BEIJING — The Chinese government Thursday pledged $150 million in aid to war-ravaged Afghanistan, on top of the $4.5 billion that interim Afghan Prime Minister Hamid Karzai won in international donations this week in Tokyo.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin made the promise of more aid in a meeting with Karzai, who wrapped up a two-day visit here that followed his trip to Japan. At the Tokyo conference, China had promised $1 million, as well as $3.6 million in humanitarian assistance.

It was not clear how the significantly expanded aid package, reported by the official New China News Agency, would be constituted or delivered.

As Karzai made a brisk climb up the Great Wall outside Beijing, he told reporters that his top priorities in spending the funds will be "security, education, health, road building."

Afghan Reconstruction Minister Mohammed Amin Farhang said that "the international community did its duty, and now it is our turn to do what we have to do to use this money efficiently."

Farhang said he thinks that China will resume projects it had begun in Afghanistan but was forced to halt during the more than two decades of war in his nation. "The Chinese have done a lot of projects in Afghanistan," he said. "I hope that their help will be even more in the future."

The two countries share a small border on China's western fringe. Not long after the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Beijing sent officials to inspect its abandoned embassy in Kabul, the Afghan capital. The Chinese are expected to reopen the embassy soon, perhaps as early as next month.

The pumped-up aid package will help Beijing retain some influence over its neighbor. The Communist government here is concerned that Western--especially U.S.--influence in its backyard is on the rise.

Beijing also complains of problems with Islamic terrorists who it says received training at bases in Afghanistan and elsewhere, then infiltrated China to foment unrest and violence through a campaign of bombings, assassinations and arson, with the goal of breaking off the western Xinjiang region from Chinese rule.

On Monday, Beijing directly linked separatist activity in Xinjiang with Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network.

On Wednesday, interim Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah promised that his country will cooperate fully with China in tracking down suspected terrorists.

Farhang said Thursday that he had no news of the whereabouts of Bin Laden or Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar, despite the massive U.S.-led hunt for both men.

"If they are still in Afghanistan," Farhang said, "they will be captured or they will commit suicide."

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