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    Proceedings briefly disrupted

    BONN (PAN): Two women carrying a banner with slogans against the foreign military presence in Afghanistan briefly disrupted the Bonn Conference in Germany on Monday.

    The women entered made their way to the second-floor press gallery soon after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ended her speech to the gathering on Afghanistan's future direction.

    The banner they carried was inscribed with slogans "NATO=Terror" and "Troops Out Now". Holding aloft Afghanistan's flag, one of the women said: "With the exception of only two civil society representatives, all delegates should leave the hall."

    Meanwhile, an organiser announced there was no cause for concern. The women's action was just one instance of democratic freedoms in Germany.

    Later, a security official asked the women to quit the hall but went back to their seats. As the Chinese foreign minister took to the rostrum, they left the hall and the proceedings resumed.

    In his speech, President Hamid Karzai promised his government would press on with efforts, briefly stalled by the High Peace Council head Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani's assassination, at pursuing peace with the Taliban.

    He urged the Afghan militants to shun the insurgency, embrace the country's constitution and cut links to Al Qaeda. Despite the Sept. 20 murder of Rabbani, the peace drive will go on in line with the Loya Jirga's recommendation.

    Referring to the 2001 conference in the same city, he said: "Ten years ago, Afghanistan began a journey of hope. It's my privilege to have you here again." He specially thanked Germany for its solidarity with and commitment to Afghanistan over the past decade.

    While opening the meeting, the German foreign minister vowed the global fraternity would not abandon Afghanistan after the last combat troops pull out of the country in 2014. "The goal of this conference will be to lay the groundwork for a free, secure and prosperous Afghanistan.”

    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, calling the protection of civilians a key priority, said: "The Afghan people must see ISAF as a true partner in the deepest sense and that begins with personal security."

    Political reform in Afghanistan was central to continued international support, said US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. "Mutual accountability will be at the heart of commitments we make," she added.

    The second Bonn Conference on Afghanistan’s future, being attended by representatives from more than 115 countries and international organisations, was opened by President Hamid Karzai and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at 9am (German time).

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