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Wednesday, 30 January, 2002, 20:43 GMT
Karzai asks UN for bigger force
Hamid Karzai speaking at the UN in New York
Karzai: Afghans 'committed to challenges ahead'
Hamid Karzai, leader of Afghanistan's interim government, has asked the United Nations to extend and expand the mandate of the international security force currently patrolling the capital, Kabul.

Mr Karzai had previously said in Kabul and Washington that many Afghans felt the force should be expanded to be able to operate nationwide. But he had stopped short of directly calling for an enlargement.


Security is the foundation for peace, stability and economic reconstruction

Afghan leader Hamid Karzai
Mr Karzai told the UN that the presence of troops in other major cities would signal the ongoing commitment of the international community to Afghanistan's peace and security.

As Mr Karzai was speaking in New York, fighting broke out in the Afghan town of Gardez, the capital of the Paktia province south of Kabul, highlighting concerns about renewed violence.

Mr Karzai said Afghanistan looked forward to building a government that "responds to the wishes of our people and responds to the wishes of the international community, to whom we owe a great deal".

Expressing thanks to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the UN special envoy to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, and the Security Council, Mr Karzai said the interim government would abide by its commitment to select a new head of state and government.

He said that a loya jirga, or traditional council of tribal leaders, was to be held on 22 June this year, and that a constitution for the country was being prepared for debate at the meeting.

Security

Mr Karzai also acknowledged that Afghanistan after the Taleban desperately needed a viable army or police force, communications structure, and a rebuilding of its economy.

International Assistance Security Force soldier with Afghans
Karzai wants the UN Security force to stay for longer in Afghanistan

However, he took pains to address international concerns that the corruption which tainted Taleban rule would not affect the creation of a new government for the country.

"We will build an efficient and transparent government accountable to its citizens and the international community... We will not permit the evil of corruption."

Included among the new government's plans would be "vigorous action" to maintain a complete ban on the production of opium and the growing of poppies.

'Committed'

Mr Karzai also pledged a commitment to the education of the Afghan people - especially its women - a promise to work to attract foreign investment and a commitment to affordable health care and the rebuilding of the agricultural system - all of which he said were essential to "lead us to self-reliance".

Afghan woman pleads with aid workers for food
Many Afghans are in desperate need of aid

The plight of the five million Afghan refugees currently settled in cross-border camps in Pakistan and Iran was also addressed, with Mr Karzai saying he "looked forward" to the repatriation of the country's citizens.

He ended his speech by reiterating that Afghans were "committed to the challenges that lie ahead".

Following his speech at the UN, Mr Karzai paid a visit to Ground Zero where the Twin Towers once stood.

Looking visibly moved as he toured the site, where a huge clean-up operation is still in action, he said that the Afghan people felt the pain of the Americans who had suffered in the tragedy.

He also pledged that those who assisted in the attacks against America would be brought to justice.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Greg Barrow
"Mr Karzai has the goodwill of the international community behind him"
The BBC's Paul Reynolds
"Thousands of extra troops will be necessary"
The BBC's Clive Myrie reports from Kabul
"Numerous bombing raids are still continuing in Afghanistan"
See also:

30 Jan 02 | South Asia
Rival factions clash in Gardez
30 Jan 02 | Americas
Karzai backs US on prisoners' rights
27 Jan 02 | South Asia
Controversy clouds Karzai's US visit
21 Jan 02 | Media reports
Karzai's plea for aid
30 Jan 02 | South Asia
Dollar could be Afghan stopgap
09 Jan 02 | Media reports
Karzai's nationwide address
02 Nov 01 | South Asia
Karzai: King's powerful Pashtun ally
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