Conference on Afghanistan begins at London's Lancaster House

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London, Jan.28 (ANI): The one-day-long conference on Afghanistan has begun here.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is co-hosting the summit along with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. '

All three will address the conference with a focus on key themes of security, governance, development and regional issues.

The conference is being billed as the start of the 'transition' period for Afghanistan's 34 provinces. Ministers from 60 countries are meeting to hammer out a strategy to end the war.

Discussions could include ways to transfer authority from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to Afghan control.

The conference is likely to back efforts to win over the Taliban with money and jobs and review a U.N. terrorism blacklist to encourage fighters to change sides.

This, combined with a fresh commitment to development and the influx of an extra 30,000 U.S. troops, is meant to break a stalemate in a war now into its ninth year.

Sources said that by the afternoon, a proposal for returning Afghan control to at least five provinces by 2011 could be cleared through a conference communiqui.

Participants are unlikely to come out with a firm foreign troop withdrawal timetable, though the United States has already announced a mid-2011 date.

Anti-corruption proposals, the training of Afghan national security forces and cancellation of Afghan debt worth 1.3 billion pounds will also be discussed.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, EU Foreign Affairs Representative Baroness Ashton, Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna, World Bank and International Monetary Fund representatives, are among those participating.

The day began with a working breakfast at No 10 Downing Street. Thereafter, the conference began at Lancaster House in Central London.

Plenary sessions will follow opening remarks from Prime Minister Brown, UN Secretary General Ban ki moon and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

A communique will be released by mid-afternoon. (ANI)

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