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Sunday, 28 April, 2002, 19:33 GMT 20:33 UK
Karzai urges Afghans to come home
Afghan leader Hamid Karzai and the BBC's Lyse Doucet
Afghan exiles were eager to quiz Mr Karzai
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By Elisabeth Blunt
BBC reporter, London
line

The interim leader of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, has made a worldwide call for Afghan exiles to return home and help in their country's reconstruction.

Mr Karzai was responding live to some of the thousands of telephone calls and e-mails which came in from all over the world to the BBC's Talking Point programme.


The struggle against terrorism will go on, even if the rest of the world walks away

Hamid Karzai
He spoke passionately about the underlying patriotism and independence of all Afghans, whatever their ethnic origins.

He said those who had left during the years of conflict would be welcome back, whether they were from refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran, or professionals who had sought sanctuary in the West.

In particular, women - who had been barred from work by the former Taleban regime - should not be afraid to return, and there would be jobs for them and education for girls, he said.

Reassuring women

Afghan exiles phoned and e-mailed from all over the world, eager to talk to the country's interim leader.

Mr Karzai reassured female callers that women would have a full role in the new Afghanistan - as ministers, public servants and as members of the national council, the loya jirga, and promised equal education for boys and girls.


If the people of Afghanistan at the loya jirga choose me again to lead Afghanistan in the 18 months that come after the loya jirga, I will be honoured, I will accept it with tremendous honour and happiness

Hamid Karzai
Other callers wanted to know whether their skills could be used - and if it was safe to go back, especially in the light of incidents like the outbreak of factional fighting in the town of Gardez. Mr Karzai said he was committed to providing security.

"Yesterday in Gardez we had one of the warlords send rockets to the centre of the city and kill and wound children and women. That has to stop. Today I am very, very angry about that. I want it to end; I want it to stop. I am not going to accept that any more."

But he said the problems were just in one or two places - in most parts of Afghanistan things were fine.

He said he was not personally worried by the unwillingness of foreign allies to deploy peacekeepers outside the capital, although he had passed on the request of the Afghan people for a wider deployment.

Al-Qaeda

Some callers wanted to know how the operations against the Taleban and the remnants of the al-Qaeda network were going, in the light of a rumoured spring offensive.

"There will be no let down in our operation against terrorism and al-Qaeda - it will go with the strength it began on the first day. So until we have made sure that they are no longer threatening anybody, the struggle against them will continue. The struggle against terrorism will go on, even if the rest of the world walks away."

Hamid Karzai holds only a temporary position, until the loya jirga, scheduled for June, can choose a more permanent leader.

The host of the programme, Lyse Doucet, asked Mr Karzai if he was hoping they would choose him.

"I'm not going to campaign, really, in a way other people might do. Or put in any extraordinary effort in that.

"But if the people of Afghanistan at the loya jirga choose me again to lead Afghanistan in the 18 months that come after the loya jirga, I will be honoured, I will accept it with tremendous honour and happiness.

"And if they don't, if they choose somebody else, I will be very happy and respect that decision, and just relax and watch, and let this country go forward."

See also:

28 Apr 02 | South Asia
Karzai heads for hat trouble
30 Jan 02 | Americas
Karzai asks UN for bigger force
02 Feb 02 | South Asia
Peacekeepers key to Afghan future
20 Dec 01 | South Asia
The cost of rebuilding Afghanistan
27 Apr 02 | South Asia
Fierce Afghan clash as Rumsfeld visits
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