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Friday, June 27, 2008

G8 COUNTDOWN

G8 diplomats renew vow to stabilize Afghanistan


Staff writer

KYOTO — Foreign ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized nations met Thursday in Kyoto and agreed to renew their "firm and long-term commitment" to stabilizing Afghanistan, especially by giving development aid to regions on its border with Pakistan.

Since the Afghanistan-Pakistan border is considered a safe haven for terrorists, including al-Qaida, the G8 countries are promoting development assistance to bring stability to the area.

The G8 — the United States, Britain, Japan, France, Germany, Russia, Canada and Italy — have "endorsed" more than 150 development projects worth $4 billion, including those to build social infrastructure, promote education and improve customs and border management functions, the foreign ministers said in a statement on Afghanistan issued Thursday evening.

Promoting economic development and stabilizing the lives of people in poverty is the key to eradicating terrorism, Japanese diplomats said.

"Afghanistan is one of the priority issues for the G8 countries," a senior Foreign Ministry official said ahead of the foreign minister meeting.

Japan, chair of this year's G8 summit, has been trying to take the initiative on Afghanistan.

In May, Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura visited Afghanistan and Pakistan, proposing G8-led development initiatives for the border areas that were welcomed by both sides, Japanese officials said.

"We call on Afghanistan's neighbors to play a constructive role for the stability of Afghanistan," the G8 statement said. "We particularly encourage Afghanistan and Pakistan to continue their cooperation in a constructive and mutually beneficial manner through dialogue," the statement read.

The foreign ministers also pledged to step up efforts to counter narcotics, including support for eliminating illicit crops and providing sustainable economic alternatives.

They also encouraged Afghanistan's government "to assume greater responsibility" for security, government and reconstruction of the war-ravaged country.

Afghanistan and Pakistan were the main topics of discussion at the foreign ministers' working dinner Thursday, Komura said.

Nuclear nonproliferation issues, particularly those pertaining to North Korea and Iran, were expected to be high on agenda for the final day of the two-day meeting.

The ministers are set to conclude the session with a statement from the chairman that will also urge North Korea to totally abandon its nuclear weapons quest and take steady steps to that end.



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