Afghan minister urges foreign support beyond NATO pullout

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Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rasoul appealed Saturday for international support for his country after NATO troops pull out at the end of 2014.

"After 2014, we will continue to need long-term support from our friends in the international community," Rasoul said at a discussion forum in Bonn, ahead of a major international conference on Afghanistan on Monday.

His German counterpart Guido Westerwelle vowed at the forum that the world would not abandon Afghanistan, while also stressing the importance of the role of women in the county, where they currently face major discrimination.

Monday's meeting in the German city of Bonn will seek to chart a course for Afghanistan after the NATO withdrawal, but a boycott by Pakistan has dealt a stinging blow to hopes for a roadmap.

Pakistan is seen as vital to any prospect of stability in the war-ravaged country a decade after US-led forces ousted the Taliban, which had offered safe harbour to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

But Islamabad pulled out after the killing of 24 soldiers in NATO air strikes on two Pakistani posts a week ago, although sources close to the German foreign ministry said it would be kept informed of progress at the conference.

In an interview to appear in Sunday's Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Westerwelle again voiced his regret over the Pakistani boycott of the conference, which will gather delegates from 100 nations.

"Pakistan has more to gain from a stable and peaceful Afghanistan than any of its neighbours," he said.

In Bonn on Saturday, several thousand people -- 4,500 according to organisers -- demonstrated in protest at the conference and the German army's role in Afghanistan.

© 2011 AFP

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