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Afghan aid bill calculated

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Afghanistan needs about $9 billion during the next five years to rebuild after 20 years of war, the United Nations and World Bank have calculated.

The two organisations presented a joint report to an international aid conference in Brussels on Friday and will give a final assessment at a conference in January when major donors plan to announce an aid package for the country.

"According to our tentative estimates, $9 billion would be needed for Afghanistan over the next five years," said Mark Malloch-Brown, head of the U.N. Development Program. The estimate did not include the cost of maintaining security.

The donors, including the European Union, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the U.S., said their aid would be large and long-term, but would depend on the new Afghan interim government keeping peace.

The conference, attended by representatives from 40 countries and many non-governmental organisations, decided to create a trust fund to collect money for reconstruction, including road and bridge rebuilding and revitalising the crippled farm sector.

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"The trust fund will be designed for small and medium-sized donors, while big donors will continue to extend aid on the bilateral basis," Yaha Alyaha, an executive director at the World Bank, told a news conference.

The fund would be supervised by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank in close co-operation with Afghanistan's government, due to take office on Saturday, Reuters news agency reported.

Afghan finance minister-designate, Hedayat Amin-Arsala, who attended the two-day conference, reassured donors his government would do all it could to make sure aid distribution was honest and transparent, participants said.

The conference earlier agreed to set up a $20 million fund for the Afghan government, mainly to pay salaries for its ministers and equip their offices.

Humanitarian aid began to pour into Afghanistan after its rival factions agreed on the interim cabinet in early December, but many donors say the action must be better co-ordinated to prevent funds from being wasted and misused.

The conference identified dozens of "quick impact" aid schemes, which must be implemented urgently at a cost of $582 million over the next 30 months, said Jan de Bock, a senior official at the Belgian foreign ministry.

The programmes include opening schools, setting up civil administrations, giving farmers seeds, repairing water systems, combating drugs and boosting health care.


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