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    US to open consulates in more provinces

    KANDAHARCITY: The US would open consulates in Kandahar, Nangarhar, Herat and Balkh provinces, its ambassador to Afghanistan said on Thursday.

    Karl Eikenberry, who visited Kandahar City on Thursday, met with the provincial governor and other high-ranking provincial officials.

    He discussed the issues concerning the security situation, good governance and development process in the southern province, bordering Pakistan.

    Speaking at a joint press conference with Governor Toryalai Weesa, the US envoy said his country wanted to open consulates in Kandahar and other provinces.

    USconsulates in Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of northern Balkh province, would be functional until summer, Eikenberry said. Plans for creating similar diplomatic offices in Kandahar and Nangarhar were being processed, he added.

    President Hamid Karzai and Weesa had urged the creation of the US consulate in Kandahar and a final decision in this regard would be taken by the Congress and the State Department, the envoy said.

    He hoped the consulates would play a key role in strengthening trade and political ties between the two countries. However, he said there was a need for improved security in the province.

    Eikenberry said his visit to Kandahar was aimed at discussing the security situation, recent terrorist attacks and launching a tree plantation campaign.

    He discussed with local officials the transition of security responsibly to the Afghan lead by 2014, a process due to begin next month.