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Clinton visits Afghanistan ahead of Tokyo talks

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Clinton visits Afghanistan ahead of Tokyo talks
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Kabul: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Kabul on an unannounced visit today on the eve of a major conference in Tokyo in which Afghanistan is set to seek billions of dollars in civilian aid.

"Considering that we are almost literally flying by, the secretary wanted to be able to stop in Kabul en route to Tokyo, in large part just to check signals before this last major, significant ministerial conference," a senior State Department official told reporters travelling with Clinton.

The top US diplomat was to hold breakfast talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace in Kabul.

Karzai, who will be in Tokyo along with officials including Clinton and United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon, has called for some USD 4 billion a year in civilian aid for Afghanistan to be pledged during Sunday's conference.

The World Bank has estimated that Afghanistan will need some USD 3.9 billion a year in civilian assistance for its aid-dependent economy, amid fears donations could dry up when NATO pulls out in 2014.

But a principle of "mutual accountability" will be stressed at the 70-nation meeting, making continued payment of aid conditional on Kabul making progress, particularly on transparency.

"The international community will continue to come together and show this enduring commitment that will be at or near levels that we've used over the past decade," the US official said, asking to remain anonymous.

He refused to be drawn on what the specific level of aid pledged by the United States would be, saying the amount would remain at current levels.

In the fiscal year 2012 the US civilian aid commitment was "particularly high" at USD 2.3 billion, he said. But in 2003 it was at USD 1 billion.

PTI

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