25-million-dollar Coca-Cola plant opened in Afghanistan

Kabul, September 10, 2006 (AFP) - President Hamid Karzai formally opened a 25-million-dollar Coca-Cola bottling plant, one of the most significant investments in Afghanistan since the ousting of the Taliban five years ago.

Karzai said it was an endorsement of the government's efforts to push ahead with reconstruction of the war-damaged country.

The plant had its first products, which will compete with imports from Pakistan and Iran, on the streets of the capital in January.

Its initial formal opening was postponed in May after riots in which hordes of men rampaged through the city, setting fire to buildings and vehicles after a deadly traffic accident involving a US military vehicle.

The investment by a Dubai-based Afghan family is one of the biggest in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Mobile telecommunications network Roshan has spent about 180 million dollars setting up here.

The Afghan government is trying to attract foreign investment to spur an economy ruined by three decades of war.

But the country faces considerable odds, including a resurgent Taliban, widespread corruption and a shattered infrastructure, with even the capital only getting a sporadic supply of electricity.