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Saturday, 2 February, 2002, 17:59 GMT
Karzai orders probe into fighting
Afghanistan Interim leader Hamid Karzai leaving Downing Street
Hamid Karzai has only just returned from abroad
By the BBC's Mike Donkin in Kabul

The head of Afghanistan's interim government, Hamid Karzai, is to send a delegation to investigate the fighting which killed 50 people in the province of Paktia.

Speaking immediately after arriving home from his trip to Washington and London, Mr Karzai said he wanted to calm things down there.

He said he deeply regretted the bloodshed and he was strongly critical of the actions of the warlord his own government had appointed as governor.

Mr Karzai had warm words to say on his return about the welcome he had been given by his powerful sponsors in the West.

Condemned

But, while he was being feted there, the worst violence since his interim government took control had disrupted the eastern town of Gardez.

UN security forces in Afghanistan
Peacekeeping activities are confined to Kabul
Thousands had protested at the government's imposition of warlord Bacha Khan, and to exert control his fighters had then shelled the town.

Fifty people died before the new governor beat a retreat.

Mr Karzai said he condemned those who used violence to win power.

Yes, he admitted, his government had chosen Bacha Khan, but he had had no right to impose himself by force.

Mr Karzai said he was sending a delegation to consult all the tribes in Paktia, and he insisted the issue would now be resolved peacefully.

Doubts

He said he deeply regretted the civilian casualties, but really he claimed, this was a minor problem - a clash between local commanders.

The fact that Afghanistan's interim leader has acted so quickly on arriving home suggests he is not taking the Paktia incident quite so lightly.

It has confirmed everyone's doubts about security here.

While abroad, Mr Karzai tried to persuade London and Washington to strengthen the International Security Force but with no success.

Now he must use what authority he can muster to control the strong men of the Afghan countryside on his own.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Damien Grammaticus
"They are trying to bring both sides together"
See also:

02 Feb 02 | South Asia
Peacekeepers key to Afghan future
31 Jan 02 | UK Politics
UK cool on extra Afghan troops
31 Jan 02 | South Asia
Fighting setback for Afghan leaders
23 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Afghans 'almost fired on UK troops'
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