© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2003
KABUL, Afghanistan -- The World Bank announced its first loan to Afghanistan in more than 20 years Wednesday, $108-million to help repair ruined bridges and roads.
The 40-year, no-interest loan will help rebuild transportation infrastructure ruined by 23 years of warfare that has devastated the country and made it one of the world's poorest nations.
"Solving Afghanistan's transport problems is absolutely essential to both short-term recovery and long-term development," said Terje Wolden, a World Bank transport specialist.
The money will be spent on repairing disintegrating roads, collapsed bridges, damaged tunnels and the runway at Kabul airport in the capital.
The World Bank loan was its first to the war-ravaged country since the former Soviet Union invaded in 1979. That year, Afghanistan went into arrears to international donors after discontinuing payments on foreign loans.
Also Wednesday, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced a new $60-million program to rehabilitate Afghanistan's school system.
The money will go toward printing 10-million textbooks in the local Dari and Pashtu languages, said Elizabeth Kvitashvili, a USAID official in Afghanistan.
The money will also help the construction or reconstruction of about 1,200 primary schools.
Pakistani and U.S. officials Wednesday denied Iran Radio's report that Osama bin Laden had been arrested in Pakistan but that his capture would not be announced until the outbreak of fighting in Iraq.
The Iranian state radio's external service quoted the deputy leader of the Islamic Awami Tahrik party in Pakistan, Murtaza Poya, who also made the same assertion to the Associated Press.
Pakistani interior and information ministries denied the capture, as did the CIA and the U.S. military in Afghanistan.
MADRID, Spain -- A judge ordered a Spaniard and a Pakistani jailed Wednesday on suspicion they formed part of the financial network of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida organization.
The two were among five people arrested Friday in Spain. The magistrate released the other three detainees, all Spaniards, without charges.
The two jailed were identified as Spaniard Enrique Cerda Ibanez and Pakistani Ahmed Ruksar.
The state attorney's office recommended the imprisonment, saying the two may have been involved in the April synagogue bombing on the Tunisian resort island of Djerba, which killed 19.
State prosecutor Pedro Rubira accused Cerda and Ruksar of sending money to Issa Ismail Muhamad, identified as "Isaac of Karachi," who is alleged to have financed the Djerba attack and is believed to be in Pakistan.
The order against Cerda states that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the senior al-Qaida operative accused of masterminding the Sept. 11 attacks, had Cerda's telephone number and gave it to Nizar Naouar, the Tunisian who allegedly drove the truck bomb in the Djerba attack.
Mohammed, believed to be al-Qaida's third-most powerful man, was arrested March 1 in Pakistan. French authorities say they believe Mohammed gave the order for the Djerba attack.