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Asia-Pacific

We'll take your money but we can't be friends, Afghan senators tell 'infidel' France

media French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (L) and his Afghan counterpart Zalmai … Reuters/Mohammad Ismail

France is to train Afghan police and army officers as part of a 300-million-euro aid package that Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius was set to discuss with Hamid Karzai in Kabul on Saturday. But Afghan senators want to change the name of the “Friendship and Cooperation Treaty” because they say they cannot be friends with "infidels".

The treaty, which was signed by Karzai and France’s then-president, Nicolas Sarkozy, in January has been ratified by the French and Afghan parliaments.

But the Afghan Senate has suggested to its foreign ministry that the word “friendship” in the title be replaced by “relationship”.

Dossier: AfPak news and analysis

“Some senators have explained that, according to the principles of sharia [Islamic law] the word ‘friendship’ could not be used with infidels,” Senator Zahra Sharifi told the AFP news agency.

The deal, whose implementation Karzai and Fabius were to discuss on Saturday, will mean France providing 300 million euros for projects relating to health, education, agriculture, infrastructure development and mining between 2012 and 2016, Fabius revealed in July.

Although French troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, in accordance with President François Hollande’s election pledge, French police will help set up a unit of gendarmes and soldiers will train top military officers.

  • France joined the US-led international alliance that toppled the Taliban in 2001;
  • It has lost 88 soldiers in the war with insurgents;
  • French troops are currently withdrawing and are set to have left by the end of 2013;
  • In mid-October 2,550 French troops were in Afghanistan, compared to 4,000 a year before.

Fabius’s visit to Afghanistan is his second. He accompanied Hollande when the president visited troops there just after being elected.

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