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Thursday, 13 December, 2001, 16:57 GMT
New Afghan leader enters Kabul
Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai says 'peace and security' are his priority
The leader of Afghanistan's new interim government, Hamid Karzai, says his first priority is to establish "total peace and security for the people of Afghanistan".

Mr Karzai was speaking to the BBC's Lyse Doucet after arriving in the capital, Kabul, to prepare for the transition of power on 22 December.

We have no police force, no standing army, therefore for the safety of the Afghan people we need some sort of policing and for this we need international help

Hamid Karzai
"We must work hard to provide our people with the economic opportunity to earn a good living... We must fulfil a promise to the Afghan people to give them the right to self-determination, to make Afghanistan a country ruled by law," he said.

Mr Karzai also stressed the need to quash terrorism in Afghanistan.

"It is a priority to continue the fight against terrorism - to finish it completely. To throw them out of Afghanistan and bring them to trial so those victimised by them can see justice," he said.

Mountain assault

Meanwhile US forces have launched a fresh assault on the Tora Bora cave complex in eastern Afghanistan after a second deadline for al-Qaeda to hand over their commanders passed with no sign of surrender.

Since daybreak B-52s dropped bombs on the caves where followers of Osama Bin Laden have taken refuge.

Mr Karzai flew into Bagram air base north of the city in the early hours of Thursday morning and quietly entered the capital.

It is the first time he has been in Kabul since a power-sharing agreement was adopted last week by the main Afghan factions meeting in Germany.

Hamid Karzai
It was Mr Karzai's first visit to Kabul as interim leader
He was met at the presidential palace by the future Interior Minister Younis Qanooni, Defence Minister Mohammad Fahim and Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.

When asked about the need for a multi-national peacekeeping force to establish security in Afghanistan Mr Karzai told the BBC:

"We have no police force, no standing army, therefore for the safety of the Afghan people we need some sort of policing and for this we need international help."

The new leader is holding talks with cabinet members from his interim government throughout Thursday, although it is not yet known whether he will make any public appearances.

Security plans

Mr Karzai is also due to meet the United Nations Deputy Representative to Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell, and has already met Burhanuddin Rabbani, the last internationally-recognised president of Afghanistan.

Mr Rabbani agreed to give up his claim to the presidency in exchange for his party being given several key posts in the new government.

Tora Bora map
  • Tuesday: About 800 al-Qaeda troops flee lower Tora Bora caves
  • Wednesday: Al-Qaeda ignores 8:00am surrender deadline
  • Thursday: B-52s resume strikes on Tora Bora
  • US says there are indications that Bin Laden is still in region

    See also:
    Where is Bin Laden?

  • In the past Mr Rabbani has been critical of the new government, but after the meeting Mr Karzai told our correspondent that Mr Rabbani "is a good Afghan and he gave me all his trust."

    Since being named interim leader, Mr Karzai had remained with his men during the battle for the Taleban's southern stronghold of Kandahar.

    The Taleban withdrew from Kandahar on Friday, and Mr Karzai then negotiated a power-sharing accord for the city among rival tribal factions.

    According to the BBC's correspondent in the city, Brian Barron, life there is largely returning to normal.

    The BBC's Lyse Doucet speaks to Hamid Karzai
    "The first priority is total peace and security for the Afghan people"
    The BBC's Caroline Wyatt
    "The interim government will take office on December 22nd"
    See also:

    13 Dec 01 | South Asia
    Eyewitness: New assault on Tora Bora
    13 Dec 01 | South Asia
    Afghan assault as deadline expires
    02 Nov 01 | South Asia
    Karzai: King's powerful Pashtun ally
    11 Dec 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
    That's nice, I'm prime minister!
    05 Dec 01 | South Asia
    Cautious optimism in Kabul
    05 Dec 01 | South Asia
    Q&A: Afghan deal
    19 Nov 01 | South Asia
    Afghan powerbrokers: Who's who
    12 Dec 01 | South Asia
    Normal life returning to Kandahar
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