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EU-Pakistan agree Afghan strategy

Airport arrival
Belgium's PM Guy Verhofstadt, right, and the EU's Romano Prodi, left, are welcomed by Pakistan's FM Abdul Sattar  

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A multinational force should not be put in Afghanistan until a broad-based government has been agreed, the EU and Pakistan have said.

A senior European Union delegation, led by Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, issued a joint statement with Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf following talks on Saturday.

The statement also said the international community must not "waver from its consensus" on Afghanistan's political future.

Representatives from various Afghan groups are due to meet in Bonn, Germany, on Tuesday under the auspices of the United Nations to discuss setting up an interim broad-based government in their country.

The joint statement said the post-Taliban government "should be broad-based, multiethnic and acceptable to all Afghans."

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Musharraf -- who took power in a 1999 coup -- reiterated his commitment to returning Pakistan to civilian rule.

Earlier, the delegation was told that Afghanistan faces a severe humanitarian crisis and is urgently in need of international assistance.

The 15-member EU has so far pledged $272 million in humanitarian aid.

Relief groups had also appealed to the delegation to urge Musharraf to open Pakistan's borders to refugees, which it so far has been reluctant to do.

Pakistan is home to more than two million Afghan refugees already.

Pakistan has been a key ally in the U.S.-led coalition against terror, and the EU is preparing a cooperation accord on Pakistani clothing exports to Europe to help ease its economic woes.

The government has put losses due to the war in neighbouring Afghanistan at $2 billion.

The EU plans to abolish its 7 percent customs duty on clothing from Pakistan from January and increase quotas for such goods by 15 percent.

The United States is contemplating a similar measure.

Clothing and textiles account for three-quarters of Pakistan's exports to the EU, worth $1.5 billion last year.

In return, Pakistan will reduce its duties on textile and clothing imports from the EU.

A similar EU offer was proposed to India, which Delhi is still considering. The EU delegation had visited India ahead of its Pakistan trip.

The EU is India's biggest trading partner but India ranks only 19th among the EU's business partners, accounting for just 1.3 percent of total EU imports.


• India considers EU textile offer
November 23, 2001

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