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Goff meets leaders, NZ troops in Afghanistan

Goff meets leaders, NZ troops in Afghanistan

Foreign Minister Phil Goff is in Afghanistan to meet government leaders and visit New Zealand Defence Force personnel in the south-east of the country, in Kabul and Bamiyan.

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New Zealand Minister of Foreign affairs Phil Goff with Afghanistan's President Karzai.

Mr Goff was warmly received by President Karzai and Foreign Minister Abdullah, and was briefed on the outlook for Afghanistan by the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative Jean Arnault, and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander General Jean-Louis Py.

“President Karzai expressed profound gratitude for New Zealand’s substantial contributions towards achieving improved security and economic conditions for the people of Afghanistan – the combat operations of our Special Air Service, the great work of the NZDF Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan, our participation in ISAF, and development assistance," Mr Goff said.

“I announced today the further allocation of up to $5 million for on-going reconstruction assistance for 2004/05, with a priority focus on education, agriculture and governance, particularly in Bamiyan.

“The support will be delivered through the Provincial Reconstruction Team, UN agencies, national institutions such as the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, and NGOs working on the ground."

Mr Goff said important progress was being made in Afghanistan.

"Last December agreement was reached on a new constitution. On 9 October, Afghan people will vote for the first time in free elections for a President. Notwithstanding threats by the Taliban and the murder of electoral workers, nearly ten million people have enrolled to vote, millions higher than the UN estimated.

"The determination to register to cast a vote bodes well for Afghan democracy. In Bamiyan, with the assistance of our Provincial Reconstruction Team and aid agency NZAID, 95 per cent of eligible voters have registered.

“Serious problems remain to be overcome, however. In particular, opium production has now increased to a level that sustains warlords, risks corrupting government officials and undermining central government authority, and damages those who become addicts.

“Afghanistan now supplies over 75 per cent of the world’s production of opium and over 90 per cent of opium products in Europe. It has a street value of over US$35 billion.

“President Karzai acknowledged the enormity of the problem. He said the solution required destruction of crops and production facilities, interdiction of supplies and international cooperation on border controls. However a sustainable solution has to also involve assistance to farmers to produce alternative crops.

“In my meetings with a wide cross section of government and international organisations, the commitment and professionalism of the New Zealand Defence Force has been strongly praised.

“We can be proud of their contribution towards achieving a better life for Afghans and, through tackling those who contributed to terrorism, a more stable and secure international community,” Mr Goff said.

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