Afghanistan conference begins in The Hague

By RNW, AP

The international conference on Afghanistan gets under way in The Hague this morning. The event was opened at 10.45 a.m. by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai. Delegations from 72 countries are attending the conference to discuss the future of Afghanistan and the role that the international community can play.

"We have great expectations," Karzai said after arriving Monday night.

Shortly after her arrival in the Netherlands, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton announced that the US will make 40 million dollars available for the elections in Afghanistan to be held later this year. She did not rule out a rare face-to-face meeting with Iran's representative to an international conference on pacifying Afghanistan.

Iran is sending deputy foreign minister, Mohammad Mehdi Akhoondzadeh, to the conference.

"The fact that they accepted the invitation to come suggests that they believe there is a role for them to play and we are looking forward to hearing more about that," Clinton told reporters aboard her plane.

Clinton is expected to outline Barack Obama's new strategy – unveiled last week – for boosting security and strong government in Afghanistan. The president said he will send an extra 17,000 soldiers and 4,000 advisers to train Afghan military forces, plus hundreds more civilians to work on development issues.

The Hague - the Netherlands' third city and home to the national government and the International Criminal Court, the Yugoslavia tribunal and the International Court of Justice - is in the grip of a massive security operation. The air space above the city has been declared a no-go area and around over 3,000 police officers are patrolling the streets. Checks at the borders with Belgium and Germany have also been stepped up.

Five organisations are being allowed to demonstrate at designated locations in the city. They include an anti-Nato coalition, an anti-imperialism platform and a group of Afghan refugees.


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