Asia Crisis

UN planning summit in Afghanistan next spring

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 4 (Reuters) - The United Nations is seeking to arrange a summit in Afghanistan early next year to tackle political and economic issues in the strife-torn country, U.N. officials said on Friday.

"The summit has been proposed as a means of bringing the next Afghan government and its international partners together around a common agenda for Afghanistan over the next few years," said Ari Gaitanis, a spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping department.

The country held elections last month. Partial results show President Hamid Karzai inching toward re-election in a single round, but opposition candidate Abdullah Abdullah has accused authorities of ballot-rigging.

"We want to see fresh momentum on governance and development once the elections are over, and it's hoped this meeting will contribute to that," Gaitanis said.

Afghanistan is mired in an 8-year-old conflict pitting Afghan and NATO-led international forces against Taliban guerrillas. U.S. and NATO casualties in Afghanistan are at record levels and doubts are growing about the war in the United States and other NATO nations.

Gaitanis said the summit would likely held in the Afghan capital, Kabul, next spring, but details were being worked out and no list of invitees had so far been prepared.

Other officials said the United Nations, which maintains a civilian mission in Afghanistan charged with leading international efforts to promote peace and stability, would play a coordinating role in the proposed summit.

Afghanistan has been the subject of repeated international conferences. In February 2006, some 50 countries agreed on a "compact" in London to improve security and efficient governance, promote economic development and curb drug production.

A conference in Paris in June 2008 pledged some $20 billion to finance a national development strategy. (Reporting by Patrick Worsnip; Editing by Peter Cooney)