Nations pledge $140 million for Afghan reintegration
LONDON (Reuters) - Donor countries have pledged more than $140 million toward a fund to encourage Afghan militants to renounce violence and reintegrate into mainstream society, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Thursday.
"Today alone there been over $140 million worth of commitments for the first year of the national reintegration program and we are committed to seeing that through," Miliband told a news conference.
Leaders and foreign ministers from 60 countries met in London Thursday to try to map out an end to the conflict in Afghanistan.
Japan's state secretary for foreign affairs, Tetsuro Fukuyama, said Tokyo was prepared to offer an initial $50 million toward the fund.
Fukuyama said the fund would be a "very important tool" to reconcile the Afghan nation.
He said Britain, Australia and South Korea had already promised money for the fund, in which Japan would play a leading role, and he hoped other countries would follow.
"Once the fund is established and the scheme becomes clear ... we expect and look forward to other countries coming to this fund," he said in an interview, speaking through an interpreter.
He said the final size of the fund would not be known until all countries had made their commitments.
Afghanistan says the program could need up to $1 billion in funding over the next three years.
Japan's contribution would have to be ratified by the Japanese parliament, Fukuyama said, adding that Tokyo might pledge extra money later to ensure the fund's continuity.
He said it had yet to be decided how the fund would be managed.
"How the Afghan government, the United Nations and donor countries are involved in the scheme is up to future discussions."
Progress would be reviewed at a conference due to take place in Kabul in March, he said.
He dismissed concerns that Taliban fighters might accept money from the fund and then refuse to lay down their arms.
"It is important to view this fund from a broader perspective. This is a tool to reintegrate Afghanistan as a whole. How to distinguish Taliban and those who are leaving the Taliban is a very small point, I think."
(Reporting by Tim Castle and Keith Weir; editing by Andrew Dobbie)
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