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Last Updated: Friday, 6 June, 2003, 12:38 GMT 13:38 UK
Queen gives Karzai knighthood
The Queen hands Mr Karzai his insignia
The honour marks the esteem the UK Government has for Karzai
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been awarded an honorary knighthood by the Queen in a ceremony at Windsor Castle.

The Queen handed the president the insignia of a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George - a senior knighthood.

The honour had been recommended by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

As she presented the honour, the Queen said: "This is a token of friendship."

A grateful Mr Karzai asked of the insignia: "Do I get to wear this on my jacket some time?"

The Queen said it could sometimes be arranged.

President Karzai cannot use the title "Sir" as he is a foreign national.

The ceremony in the Oak Room, the Queen's private sitting room at Windsor Castle, was a mark of the esteem in which Mr Karzai is held by the British Government.

Al-Qaeda threat

Mr Karzai is on the final day of a three-day visit to Britain.

He spoke earlier on Friday on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, warning that Osama bin Laden was probably still alive and that al-Qaeda operatives were still capable of individual terrorist attacks.

Can [al-Qaeda] operate in large groups? No they cannot do that anymore. That's gone
Hamid Karzai

However, Mr Karzai said al-Qaeda could no longer operate as a large organisation.

"Sometimes we hear [bin Laden's] along the Afghan border, sometimes we hear that he's in some other countries," Mr Karzai said.

"I can't say [whether he's alive]. Probably he is. But I can tell you one thing, that terrorism is defeated."

Mr Karzai said al-Qaeda was no longer in Afghanistan.

"They are on the run, they are hiding. A hiding person is not a victorious person," he said.

Hamid Karzai and Tony Blair
Tony Blair recommended the knighthood to reward Mr Karzai

The president admitted it would be impossible for any government to prevent all incidents of individual terrorism by al-Qaeda operatives.

But he added: "Can they operate in large groups? Can they have other similar activities that would take an organised form of large people? No they cannot do that anymore. That's gone."

Mr Karzai also defended his support for action against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

"The Iraqi people were suffering like hell under him. My support came primarily because I wanted the Iraqi people to be free from that sort of oppression."

Mr Karzai met Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday and received a pledge that Britain would continue its commitment to the post-war reconstruction of Afghanistan.

"I think the signs of a very stable future for Afghanistan are already there and the signs are in the enthusiasm of the Afghan people," Mr Karzai said.


SEE ALSO:
Hamid Karzai: Shrewd statesman
14 Jun 02  |  South Asia
Afghan leader meets Blair
05 Jun 03  |  South Asia
High alert after Afghan battle
06 Jun 03  |  South Asia
Analysis: Afghan security still key
04 Jun 03  |  South Asia
Aid or heroin, Afghanistan warns
17 Mar 03  |  Business


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