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International conference on Afghanistan kicks off in London

RIA Novosti


LONDON, January 28 (RIA Novosti) - An international conference on how to bring an end to the conflict in Afghanistan opened in London on Thursday.

Opening the 70-nation meeting, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said it was a "decisive" time for the future of the country. He also expressed support for plans to dramatically boost Afghan police and army numbers "to turn the tide in the fight against the insurgency."

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called for a clear policy on the war-ravaged Central Asian state in an article in The Times newspaper.

"The effort and sacrifice of our soldiers alone will not be enough to turn the corner in Afghanistan," he said. "It will have to be matched by a clear political 'road map'. The London conference will help to set that out."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, recently re-elected in a poll marred by fraud allegations, has expressed hope that his country's renewed efforts to reconcile with Taliban militants will be successful. He said the government would offer Taliban fighters financial support, housing and jobs in exchange for laying down their arms and returning to civilian life.

The conference is expected to approve $500 million to allow Karzai to fund a program to reintegrate low and mid-level Taliban fighters back into society. The Taliban has said the campaign will fail as its fighters have no interest in material goods.

On Monday, General Stanley McChrystal, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, said he hoped the extra troops committed to Afghanistan by the U.S. would force the Taliban to accept a peace agreement.

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