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SLUG: 2-314183 Powell / Afghanistan
TITLE=POWELL / AFGAN (L)
INTRO: Secretary of State Colin Powell spent much of Wednesday in Kabul for talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on security issues and preparations for Afghan elections later this year. Mr. Powell welcomed Pakistani military operations against Taleban remnants
along the Afghan border, and said U-S-led forces will respect that border, as they conduct similar operations on the Afghan side. V-O-A's David Gollust reports from the Afghan capital.
TEXT: Mr. Powell's Afghan visit coincided with an offensive by U-S-led coalition forces against Taleban and al-Qaida elements in southern and eastern Afghanistan, and a similar security drive by Pakistani troops in tribal areas on its side of the border.
At a news conference following talks with Mr. Karzai, Secretary Powell welcomed what he said were signs that Pakistan is picking up the pace of its border security operations. And, he said he regretted the casualties among Pakistani troops. He said the issue will figure in talks he has with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad Thursday.
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But it shows, I think, the intentions on the part of Pakistan not to allow these tribal areas to be used as a haven for the Taleban, where they can cause trouble in Afghanistan. And I'm sure this will be the subject of conversation with President Musharraf tomorrow. I am pleased that U-S forces will be increasing the pace of operations along the border. With respect to the border, it is a border between two sovereign nations, and we have to respect that it is an international border.
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The secretary's talks with President Karzai also covered Afghan election plans and reconstruction efforts. And Mr. Powell confirmed that the United States will pledge another one-billion-dollars in reconstruction aid at a donors' conference in Berlin later this month. That will bring the total amount of U-S rebuilding aid committed for the year to over two-billion dollars.
And Mr. Powell stressed at both of his public appearances in Kabul, that there is a political consensus in Washington for helping Afghanistan recover from years of war and that the United States - in his words - is in it for the long hall.
As to the election process, President Karzai told reporters that holding presidential and legislative elections as promised by summer is important for building Afghanistan's international legitimacy.
But he said only about one-point-four-million voters have been registered to date out of a goal of nearly 10-million, and he suggested that the timing for the vote might slip from late June to July or August.
He said having the presidential election and the legislative vote together would be preferable to the Afghan people and less expensive for the government. But he said, whether that is technically possible is an open question.
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