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U.S. Senators Urge NATO Compensation Fund For Afghans

February 21, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Two high-ranking U.S. senators have urged NATO to create a trust fund for Afghan civilians harmed by NATO-led combat operations.

In a letter sent to NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on February 15, senators Joseph Biden (Democrat, Delaware) and Patrick Leahy (Democrat, Vermont) said NATO allies could contribute to a single NATO fund in a way similar to a $4.5 million NATO trust fund established for Iraq.

Biden chairs the U.S. Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, while Leahy heads the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Senate's Committee on Appropriations.

Biden and Leahy say a single NATO trust fund would not require an expanded NATO mandate because the money would be distributed through the International Organization for Migration.

Since 2002, the U.S. has appropriated more than $12 million to help Afghan civilians harmed by U.S. operations. The funds are used for medical, rehabilitation, economic, and reconstruction aid.

But NATO, as a whole, does not have equivalent programs.

Biden and Leahy say this risks creating resentment among Afghans when members of their families are hurt or killed by NATO-led combat operations.

Copyright (c) 2007. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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