Koenders wants new crops in Afghanistan

21st March 2007, Comments 0 comments

21 March 2007, AMSTERDAM – The Netherlands wants to help Afghan farmers change over from poppy cultivation to crops like peaches, apricots and almonds. Minister for Development Cooperation Bert Koenders made agreements to this effect in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan this week.

21 March 2007

AMSTERDAM – The Netherlands wants to help Afghan farmers change over from poppy cultivation to crops like peaches, apricots and almonds. Minister for Development Cooperation Bert Koenders made agreements to this effect in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan this week.

The province should become a "fruit orchard" for Afghanistan, like the Betuwe area is to the Netherlands. A German development organisation is being hired in to start work on this initiative near the military base in Tarin Kowt.

People with ties to the Taliban in the past may also take part, but only those who were forced to cooperate with the insurgent group. Ministers Eimert van Middelkoop (defence), Koenders and Maxime Verhagen (foreign affairs) also talked with President Hamid Karzai.

The Netherlands has pledged an extra EUR 3 million in aid for the province of Uruzgan. The money will help fund a police school, courts and police equipment. Police checkpoints can also be improved.

Minister Verhagen voiced criticism today of the new Media act up for discussion in the Parliament in Kabul.

Afghan politicians have amended the Media act so that it will no longer be possible to criticise the authorities. Human rights organisations have condemned the changes and Verhagen passed on the criticism and concerns to Afghan president Karzai, whom he met with today.

The minister said freedom of the press and speech is important for democracy and reconciliation in Afghanistan. Verhagen said it may not always be pleasant for leaders to hear criticism, but that it is a good thing.

The press conference at NATO headquarters in Kabul today concluded the three-day visit of ministers Verhagen, Van Middelkoop, and Koenders.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2007]

Subject: Dutch news

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