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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 8 April, 2003, 23:27 GMT 00:27 UK
Afghanistan 'to curb warlords'
Afghan soldiers
A new national army is emerging in Afghanistan
Afghan President Hamid Karzai says disarming warlords and rebuilding the national army will be priorities during the next year.

"Our main goals are ensuring better peace and stability and enforcement of a broad-based people's government all over the country," he said in an address to the nation.

"Lack of full security and stability" would hinder the attempt to rebuild the country after 23 years of civil war, he added.

Curbing the power of the warlords has been a chief concern of the Karzai administration as it tries to extend its influence beyond the capital Kabul.

It is thought however that few provincial chiefs will be willing to co-operate when the process of disarming and demobilising tens of thousands of militia men begins next month.

International role

Japan and the United Nations have pledged $125m to fund the programme while international peacekeepers say they will also play a role.

Germany has promised to help reform the police force.

"This process is important for peace and stability in the country," said President Karzai.

Afghanistan is aiming to form a national army of 70,000 men by 2009 but has been finding it difficult to find recruits, partly because of the poor pay and bad conditions.

Street in Kabul after bombing
Reconstructing Afghanistan is a mammoth task
"I have special words for the young. I want them to join the national army enthusiastically; joining the national army has no specific conditions," he said.

The reconstruction of roads, irrigation systems and power supplies will also be on the government's agenda.

There will be a drive to attract foreign investment.

"The ground will be paved for foreign and Afghan investors all over Afghanistan," said President Karzai.

He added that the government would try to eradicate the cultivation of poppies and drug smuggling with help from Britain.

Afghanistan continues to produce nearly all the world's opiates.

During a telephone call on Monday night, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Karzai discussed the problem as well as security matters, the official Afghan news agency reports.

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