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Canada pledges $200 million more for Afghan aid  

[PoliticsWatch updated 2:15 p.m., February 26, 2007]

Prime Minister Stephen Harper shakes hands with Omar Samad, Afghanistan Ambassador to Canada, at a ceremony on Parliament Hill Monday. 

OTTAWA  — Canada's Conservative government announced an additional $200 million in reconstruction assistance to war-torn Afghanistan on Monday.   

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the announcement in a ceremony on Parliament Hill.

The new money comes as opposition parties continually allege that Canada's mission in Afghanistan lacks balance is too focused on military operations. 

"Global security hinges on success in Afghanistan," Harper said in a prepared statement. 

"If we fail in Afghanistan, if that country relapses into anarchy and once again becomes a haven for extremists and terrorists, the world will be manifestly more dangerous."

The $200 million in additional funding will bring Canada's total aid and reconstruction expenditure for Afghanistan to $1 billion by 2011, the prime minister said. 

The money is being used to accelerate development programs for rural development, pay the salaries of teachers, health workers and police to ensure basic government services and to provide micro credit for small businesses.

Ten million dollars will be spent to build on a highway to improve Afghanistan's ability to trade. 

In attendance at Monday's event was Omar Samad, Afghanistan's Ambassador to Canada, who said Canada's commitment will not be forgotten. 

"On this occasion and on behalf of all Afghans, including Afghan Canadians, I would like to tell you that from our perspective Canada stands proud and tall among nations for making good on its pledges to support one of the world's most war-torn and impoverished nations," the ambassador said. 

Later when fielding questions from reporters, the prime minister was asked if Canada planned to extend its military involvement in Afghanistan beyond the current 2009 deadline. 

Last week, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion made a major speech on Afghanistan in which he promised to get Canada out of Afghanistan by 2009. 

The prime minister said it is too early to say what Canada will do when 2009 approaches. 

"I don't think one can make a judgment on the facts and the best course of action in 2009 in 2007," he said. "I think that's a precipitous and unwise way of making decisions." 

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