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Rice, Spanta sign Afghan-US joint declaration

by Lalit K Jha

Pahjwok Afghan News

05.14.2008

New York: The visiting Foreign Minister, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, and the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, Tuesday signed an Afghan-US joint declaration reaffirming mutual goals of the two nations towards achieving long-term peace, security and development of Afghanistan.

The joint declaration was signed at the Treaty Room of the State Department Building in Washington following a long 45-minute meeting between Rice and Spanta. A wide range of issues ranging from an overall assessment of the security situation, to the fight against terrorism, transition towards democracy and the forthcoming Paris Conference were discussed at the meeting, which Afghan diplomats described as fruitful and constructive.

Talking to reporters at the State Department after the meeting and before signing the joint declaration, Secretary Rice reassured the visiting minister that the United States would not commit the mistake of abandoning Afghanistan as it did after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the country.

"We will not make that mistake again, Minister (Spanta). We are committed to Afghanistan. We are committed to its future," Rice said.

The US and NATO are engaged in military operations in Afghanistan, but also in supporting the civilian reconstruction of Afghanistan. There is much progress that can be reported, but there is much work yet to do, she said.

Rice hoped that this declaration, more than anything, is yet another sign to the people of Afghanistan that they will have a friend in the US for many, many years to come.

"We look forward to the day when Afghanistan is completely stable, free, and prosperous. Because of your leadership, because of the leadership of President Karzai, and of the toughness of the Afghan people, I know that that day is coming soon," she said.

Spanta said the Karzai Government is committed to make Afghanistan's young democracy stronger to bring this country to the family of democracy of the world.

"This is our commitment. We work together. We have a common enemy, international terrorist network of al-Qaida and Taliban, it's for the peace and stability and prosperity of the people of the region and worldwide," he said.

Spanta met Tuesday Director of National Intelligence, John Michael McConnell, the National Security Adviser, Steve Hadley, during which the two discussed the achievements in the past six years and the challenges to achieve a stable and successful democracy.

The visiting Foreign Minister, also met a number of influential lawmakers, prominent among them were Congressmen, Ike Skelton, who is Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee; Senator Richard Lugar, Co-Chair of Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Senator Chuck Hagel, member of Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senator Joe Lieberman, member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Spanta addressed a meeting of the House Foreign Relations Committee, which was chaired by Congressman Gary Ackerman, chairman of the sub-committee of Middle East and South Asia. During these meeting, the Afghan Foreign Minister discussed US-Afghan partnership, and ongoing reconstruction process in Afghanistan.

The Foreign Minister is scheduled to meet Vice President, Dick Cheney, and Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, to discuss the current situation in Afghanistan, US-Afghan partnership and the upcoming Paris conference.

Later in the evening, a reception was hosted in honor of Spanta at the Afghan Embassy in Washington, which was attended by senior members of the US Administration, Ambassadors of NATO member countries and various officials.

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