- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 15, 2002

From combined dispatches
KABUL, Afghanistan Afghanistan's 3-week-old interim administration could fail if foreign donors do not come up with $100 million within days to help it pay its civil servants and police, a U.N. spokesman said yesterday.
"This administration needs several million dollars tomorrow; otherwise, there will be no country when the billions are ready," Ahmad Fawzi, spokesman for U.N. special envoy on Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi, told journalists in Kabul.
"They need $100 million within the next few days to pay the back salaries and have enough cash to pay salaries for the civil service and the police for the next six months.
"If this administration is to survive, it has to pay its employees and its police," he said.
The new administration, which has won pledges of support from major countries around the world, found when it took office in December that the defeated Taliban rulers had emptied the central bank and government ministry coffers.
It has no money to pay its 210,000 civil servants and 25,000 police. U.N. and foreign diplomats worry that public support for the government could fade if it cannot come up with cash for wages.
Mr. Fawzi said donor countries also had been slow in paying into a U.S.-sponsored "start-up fund" for the Kabul government.Donors have pledged to contribute $17 million right away, but only about $8 million has been paid so far.
Mr. Fawzi said a proposal by Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, to unfreeze blocked Taliban accounts abroad was "a useful step but it will not cover all the arrears and the advance needs."
Mr. Biden said on a recent trip to Kabul he estimated that the frozen accounts, which could be unblocked quickly, could provide about $100 million.
The United Nations faced a special problem in its needs projections, Mr. Fawzi said, because the Afghan currency had quadrupled in value against the dollar over the past month as peace returned to Afghanistan.
"We did not anticipate the dramatic fall of the dollar in Afghanistan," he said. "That meant that the rate by which we had to pay back salaries quadrupled, and therefore the sum that we needed quadrupled."
Mr. Fawzi said Mr. Brahimi sent donor countries an urgent three-page letter in early January outlining the problem and pleading with them to pay more and more quickly.
Donor countries are due to meet Afghan government ministers at a pledging conference in Tokyo Jan. 21-22.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said yesterday there was still "a risk that remaining members of the Taliban could destabilize the situation in Afghanistan," and that U.S. forces should remain until al Qaeda and the Taliban no longer pose a threat.
"Even if most of al Qaeda is now out of the country, their scope is international," Mr. Abdullah said in an interview with United Press International.

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