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Monday, 7 October, 2002, 02:59 GMT 03:59 UK
Afghanistan seeks to stay in spotlight
Afghan boys play on an overturned armoured personnel carrier
Battlefields are now playgrounds for Afghan children
Afghanistan's Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah has urged the international community not to forget the plight of his country.

Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah
Dr Abdullah told the West not to ignore Afghanistan amid the Iraq crisis
Speaking to BBC News Online on the eve of the anniversary of the campaign that ousted the Taleban, Dr Abdullah warned that the war on terror was far from over in Afghanistan.

He said it would be dangerous if Western powers were distracted from the situation in Afghanistan because of the build-up to a possible confrontation with Iraq.

In Afghanistan itself, international troops remain though the security situation is still far from stable and a new currency is to be introduced.

'Don't waste opportunity'

Dr Abdullah spoke to BBC News Online's Talking Point programme from Kabul to call on the West not to waste the opportunity gained by the overthrow of the Taleban.

Everybody will regret it if... the international community will shift its focus to another situation

Dr Abdullah Abdullah

"The focus on Afghanistan should continue and shouldn't be lessening because of events elsewhere, because the campaign against terror is far from over in Afghanistan and the efforts of ensuring the stability and prosperity in Afghanistan should continue for some time to come," he said.

"We were assured by the US administration, as well as in the Congress and Senate, that that focus would not be shifted elsewhere.

"It would be a wasted opportunity and everybody will regret it if at this critical time of our history, the history of our nation and the future of our region, and peace and stability being shaped up, the international community will shift its focus to another situation."

But Dr Abdullah, who was a key member of the Northern Alliance which led the ground attacks against the Taleban, said he realised the importance of the situation in Iraq and agreed that something had to be done, though he did not elaborate.

Changes obvious

Correspondents say many changes from a year ago are visible throughout Afghanistan.

Someone holding a large amount of Afghan currency
A new currency - but still known as the Afghani - is to be launched
At the most basic level, women need not wear the all-encompassing burqa, girls may go to school, men may shave their faces and music can be played.

Another change will come into force later on Monday, with the distribution of a new currency the government hopes will help it regain control of an economy devastated by more than 23 years of war and internal strife.

The notes will still be called the Afghani, but redenomination will take three zeros off the value of a currency so eroded in recent years it was trading at around 46,000 to the dollar on Sunday.

Foreign presence

Afghanistan's international supporters say the situation inside the country has improved hugely since the US launched its Enduring Freedom campaign on 7 October, 2001 in the aftermath of the attacks on New York and Washington.

Thousands of foreign troops remain in Afghanistan, looking for remnants of the Taleban and Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network as well as helping local forces keep control of the dangerous security situation.

A youth cooks at a street barbeque in Kabul
Barbecues and other activities have returned to the streets of Kabul
Violence is still common - a vice-president was assassinated in July, another minister was killed in February and President Hamid Karzai escaped an attempt on his life last month - and though there is the beginnings of a government army, warlords remain powerful.

Mr Karzai said in interviews on Sunday that he believed the fugitive head of the Taleban - Mullah Omar - was still alive, though he thought Bin Laden was probably dead.

But the Arab TV station al-Jazeera played a tape, said to be of Bin Laden, vowing new attacks against US interests by al-Qaeda if Washington did not stop threatening Iraq and the Muslim world.


Political uncertainty






See also:

07 Oct 02 | South Asia
07 Oct 02 | South Asia
29 Sep 02 | South Asia
27 Sep 02 | Business
25 Jul 02 | South Asia
23 Mar 02 | South Asia
06 Oct 02 | South Asian Debates
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