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    Vienna pledges 18m euros in aid to Kabul

    KABUL (PAN): Austria on Saturday pledged 18 million euros (1.2 billion afghanis) in new assistance to Afghanistan, as part of Vienna's continued aid to the country through the transformation decade after 2014.

    "Afghanistan is experiencing a critical phase in security transition and my country is ready to train Afghan National Police (ANP) after 2014 and spend 6 million euros in this regard annually," announced the visiting Austrian foreign minister.

    Micheal Spindelegger told a joint news conference with his Afghan counterpart in Kabul that Austria had good trade ties with Afghanistan and cooperation between the two countries would continue beyond 2014 when most of foreign combat troops would leave.

    Spindelegger emphasised on bringing reforms to Afghan government entities, hoping Kabul would move toward down the road to peace, stability and prosperity. He also stressed an end to the refugees streaming from Afghanistan to Austria.

    In response to a query about neighbours’ help, Dr. Zalmai Rassoul said: “I mentioned during my meeting with Spindelegger, regional cooperation is very essential for the future of Afghanistan.”

    He added: “We are engaged extensively with Pakistan on issue of cooperation against terrorism and extremism, which is affecting both countries. We have made some progress but lots of things need to be done...”

    While having good relations with Iran, Afghanistan had received over $2 billion from India in aid for major infrastructure projects, the minister said, acknowledging Delhi was providing scholarships for Afghan students for post-graduate studies.

    Rassoul said Kabul and Vienna maintained friendly ties, thanking the visiting dignitary for his country's continued aid for security, reconstruction and education sectors over the past decades. He discussed with Spindelegger issues concerning security transition, the peace process and the presidential election.

    Rassoul rejected reports the Afghan government had been unable to effectively use foreign assistance. He said though there had been problems in fund utilisation, yet a major portion of assistance was spent by donors themselves.

    “At the Tokyo Conference, we reached a mutual agreement on how and where to use foreign aid. The Afghan government and its foreign allies are committed to transparency in aid spending,” said the minister.