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UK donor conference to focus on Afghanistan

Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns said a major financial contribution to Afghanistan will be anounced.

india Updated: Jan 28, 2006 18:59 IST

A two-day conference in London next week will focus on future aid to Afghanistan but delegates also will use the occasion for informal discussions on Iran, the Middle East, Kosovo and other issues.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will announce a "major financial contribution" for Afghanistan on behalf of the United States, Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns told a news conference.

Joining NATO, the EU and other countries will be delegates from a large number of Islamic countries, including Iran.

Burns said Rice has no plans to meet with the Iranian delegate, consistent with the long-standing US policy of shunning contact with officials of the Islamic Republic.

Rice will join representatives from China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany at dinner on Monday for a discussion on Iran ahead of a special meeting on Thursday of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran's nuclear program.

The United States is pushing hard for the IAEA to refer the Iran issue to the UN Security Council in light of what Washington and many other governments see as persistent Iranian violations of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Afghan officials at the London conference will outline to the delegates specific goals for the next five years on security, governance and economic and social development.

Burns said that the conference also would address Afghan's role as the principal supplier worldwide of opium poppy, the main ingredient of heroin.

"Everyone knows that nearly half of Afghanistan's gross national product is now taken out by the production and sale of narcotics," he said.

Rice also will meet with colleagues from the EU, the United Nations and Russia for talks on Middle East issues, including the implications of the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections on Wednesday.

Also on Rice's agenda in London is a meeting with countries that are trying to ensure a stable outcome of UN-sponsored status talks on Kosovo.

The countries, in addition to the United States, are Russia, Britain, France, Germany and Italy.

Rice will leave London on Tuesday for Washington to attend President Bush's State of the Union address.

First Published: Jan 28, 2006 12:29 IST