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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 29, 2006

MEDIA INQUIRIES:
Joshua Gross, Director of Media Relations
(202) 483 6410 ext. 8002
gross@embassyofafghanistan.org

PRESIDENT KARZAI FOCUSES ON BUSINESS AND
INVESTMENT IN WASHINGTON, DC

WASHINGTON, D.C. – H.E. President Hamid Karzai met with senior executives of major U.S. companies and senior U.S. officials to discuss the need for increased economic development in Afghanistan during his recent official visit to the United States.

On September 26 the President met with a group of high-level U.S. business executives in conjunction with the White House-led “Businesses Building Bridges” (BBB) initiative. The executives included David Murdock, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Dole Food Company, Inc.; Len Rodman, Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer, Black & Veatch Corporation; Carol Bartz, Executive Chairman of the Board, Autodesk, Inc.; Barbara Barrett, Owner and President, Triple Creek Guest Ranch; Joie Gregor, Vice-Chairman, Heidrick and Struggles; Irv Bailey, Senior Advisor, Chrysalis Ventures; and Mike McCullough, former Chief Executive Officer, Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc.

The BBB initiative was first launched last January by President Karzai and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the London Conference to highlight the importance of the private sector in Afghanistan’s reconstruction. High-level U.S. business leaders were later selected to offer strategic vision and guidance to Afghan leaders on how to activate private sector growth in their country. The BBB leaders will develop a set of recommendations for the Afghan government and the Afghan private sector on ways to improve attracting and enhancing the private sector.

During the discussions, President Karzai encouraged these corporations to pursue a relationship with the Afghan business community. Special emphasis was placed on agriculture, specifically Dole’s potential contribution to Afghanistan through assistance with the processing and export of high-value products such as pomegranates, melons, raisins, grapes and figs. In the near future, the BBB delegation will travel to Kabul to follow up on issues discussed during the meeting.

On September 27, President Karzai met with U.S. Secretary of Treasury Henry M. Paulsen to discuss the need for greater flexibility in contingency spending. In a separate meeting, Minister of Finance Anwar ul Haq Ahady, together with U.S. Deputy Secretary of Treasury Robert Kimmitt, signed a historic agreement whereby the previous U.S. loan to Afghanistan of $105 million that was given to Afghanistan prior to 1979 will be restructured allowing for payment to be made over the next four years. Afghanistan is now seeking Heavily Indebted Poor Country Status (HIPC) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In January, the IMF will decide whether Afghanistan qualifies for HIPC status, which would catalyze 100% debt forgiveness from the $105 million owed to the United States, along with loans from other countries including Germany and Russia.

Before his departure for Kabul, President Karzai addressed an audience of 300 American and Afghan-American business leaders, together with representatives from the U.S. government and multilateral institutions, and university students at the George Washington University (GWU). After a warm welcome from GWU President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, President Karzai discussed the challenges and opportunities for economic development in Afghanistan. “The prosperity of Afghanistan will eventually mean prosperity in America. The prosperity of Afghanistan is eventually prosperity in Australia, Canada and Europe. So hurry up and help the contribution to the prosperity of Afghanistan so we all can be prosperous all over the world,” he said. The President went on to express confidence in the findings by the US Geological Survey that Afghanistan’s oil and gas reserves are much larger than previously estimated and invited major international oil companies to engage the Afghan government.

The audience was also addressed by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, who discussed key sectors for successful economic and business cooperation between the two countries, such dried fruits & nuts, carpets and marble. The discussions were immediately followed by an engaging panel discussion with Minister of Finance, Anwar ul Haq Ahady, President & CEO of the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA), Dr. Omar Zakhilwal, and an official of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Members of the private sector also took part in the discussions. New York-based ARC Companies announced the establishment of a new $20 million venture capital fund for Afghanistan. The Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce, Globecomm Systems, Nice Blends Corporation and the U.S.-Afghanistan Reconstruction Council were also represented in the panel.

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