"On behalf of the people of Afghanistan it is my pleasure and privilege to welcome you to this milestone conference" Mr. Karzai told the gathering attended by nearly 70 international representatives.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai Tuesday opened an international conference aimed at charting a new course on how billions in development aid are to be spent in the next few years.

“Oh behalf of the people of Afghanistan it is my pleasure and privilege to welcome you to this milestone conference” Mr. Karzai told the gathering attended by nearly 70 international representatives.

He said the conference was “marking a new phase into deepening and broadening of our international partnership.” Enhancing the capacity of the Afghan security forces, political reform, reconciliation with Taliban militants and improving governance, including the fight against endemic administrative corruption, are high on the agenda of the Kabul Conference.

The delegates include representatives from 57 countries, including 40 foreign ministers and 11 representatives from regional and international organizations, among them U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

After the opening of the conference by Mr. Karzai and Mr. Ban, the top U.N. envoy to Afghanistan Staffan de Mistura and Afghan Minister of Finance Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal are to co-chair the conference.

Afghan officials, speaking ahead of the opening, said that they expect the donors to align 80 per cent of their nearly 13-billion-dollar pledges with the Kabul government’s priorities. A peace plan to reintegrate Taliban militants into civilian life is also expected to be discussed.

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