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G8 focus on stabilising Afghanistan, Pakistan

The Group of Eight leading powers turned their attention Saturday to stabilising Afghanistan and Pakistan in talks aimed at shoring up faltering efforts with some 30 regional players.

world Updated: Jun 27, 2009 16:14 IST

The Group of Eight leading powers turned their attention Saturday to stabilising Afghanistan and Pakistan in talks aimed at shoring up faltering efforts with some 30 regional players.

With two months to go before presidential elections, Afghanistan is battling a Taliban insurgency and has been flooded with massive waves of Pakistani refugees fleeing an army offensive in the Swat valley.

G8 foreign ministers said in a joint statement that they were "firmly committed" to supporting Afghanistan and Pakistan as "they confront grave security, humanitarian, counter-narcotics, terrorism and economic challenges."

The foreign ministers of Afghanistan and Pakistan joined their counterparts from Central Asia, officials from aid organisations and the G8, but key player Iran decided to stay away amid turmoil at home over its contested election.

Talks focused on countering drug trafficking by strengthening border security in Afghanistan, which produces more than 90 per cent of the world's opium, most of it grown in the troubled southern Helmand province.

Most of the opium is converted into heroin inside the country before being trafficked mainly to Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia.

The US envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, who was taking part in the talks, said earlier this week that the United States was winding down efforts to destroy poppy crops.