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Wednesday, 9 January, 2002, 19:45 GMT
Karzai calls for Afghan army
Northern Alliance fighter in Kabul
Armed factions are a threat to peace
Afghanistan's interim leader Hamid Karzai has called for the creation of a national army as part of a blueprint to promote political and social stability in the country.


Let us join together and create a national army

Hamid Karzai
Interim leader
In his first national address since he took over the leadership of the country 18 days ago, Mr Karzai also announced plans to control inflation, boost manufacturing and develop the private sector, and said he planned to permit freedom of the press.

He spoke to the nation on television - a medium banned by his Taleban predecessors - and the speech was simultaneously broadcast on national radio.

The establishment of a national army is widely seen as a significant step for a country where local tribal leaders have long commanded their own forces independently.

In his eight-minute address, he stressed his discomfort with the fact that so many individuals in Afghanistan had their own firearms, describing the presence of such weapons as "one of the main obstacles" to peace and security in the country.

Law and order

His announcement came just hours after his interior minister Younis Qanooni ordered all armed men - except police and official security forces - to leave the capital and return to their bases within three weeks.

Hamid Karzai
Karzai is Afghanistan's leader for at least six months
The move is in line with the agreement signed between the government and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which states that all Afghan forces will be confined to barracks situated on the edge of the city.

Thousands of loosely-organised but heavily-armed Northern Alliance troops have occupied Kabul since the Taleban militia fled the city in mid-November.

They will now be required to seek the agreement of the interim administration and notify the multinational force if they plan to move around in large groups.

Mr Qanooni said the government - appointed at a UN-backed conference last month to govern for six months - had begun to disarm a city that was awash with firearms after 23 years of war.

"All people armed with weapons or ammunition are not allowed to walk in the streets," he said.

"We have ordered all the armed people except security people and the police to leave the city and go to their old bases."

ISAF troops in Kabul
Multinational troops will help police Kabul

Law and order will be the responsibility of the embryonic Afghan police service, along with ISAF personnel.

A spokesman for the international force told the BBC that the return of Northern Alliance soldiers to their barracks would help establish normality within the city.

Distrust

But the official acknowledged that in certain areas where there was still deep distrust of the government, some individuals would retain their weapons despite the agreement.

Troops belonging to the multinational force have already begun patrolling.

The BBC's Richard Miron in Kabul says many of the city's residents are looking to the force as a guarantee against factional fighting which caused widespread damage and loss of life in Kabul during the 1990s.

ISAF, to be led by Britain for the first three months of its six-month term and by Turkey for the last three, is expected to number some 4,500 troops by the end of this month.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rachel Harvey
"Mr Karzai will need substantial international help"
See also:

09 Jan 02 | Media reports
Karzai's nationwide address
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