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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 July, 2003, 09:58 GMT 10:58 UK
Straw hears Afghan security fears
Jack Straw (L) delivers a speech to tribal elders at the Governor of Kandahar's compound in Kandahar
Mr Straw hopes for a "prosperous and stable community"
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has been hearing first hand of the security dangers in the former Taleban stronghold of Kandahar in Afghanistan.

Hours before Mr Straw's arrival, a bomb explosion in a mosque in the city wounded at least 10 people.

Mr Straw told local leaders that the UK would stay in Afghanistan for as long as the people wanted.

His Afghan tour comes amid growing concern over the re-emergence of the Taleban in the south-east of the country and factional fighting in the north.

'Completely committed'

A convoy of armour-plated four-wheel drive vehicles carried Mr Straw into Kandahar city on Tuesday under the watch of armed guards from the UK embassy.

He then addressed local leaders at the compound of the governor of Kandahar province, Gul Agha Sherzai.

Jack Straw flies aboard a Hercules C-130 from Kabul to Kandahar
Mr Straw will also be examining the fight against opium production

"We are completely committed to remain in Afghanistan for as long as you want to help you build this country into a prosperous and stable community," Mr Straw said, the Press Association news agency reports.

Mr Sherzai illustrated the security worries of the area by describing an attack on Monday evening at a local mosque.

A time-bomb in the mosque wounded at least 10 people, three of them seriously.

The preacher at the mosque, Mawlavi Abdullah Fayaz, has spoken out against the Taleban's call for holy war against the central government of President Hamid Karzai.

"I had opposed the wrong decisions of the Taleban and that's why they carried out this blast," the preacher told Reuters news agency.

Kandahar governor Sherzai told Mr Straw that the attackers "have no religion. They are terrorists."

Other people at the meeting stressed their security fears to Mr Straw.

"In these kind of circumstances, how can we encourage the world to do their duty and come here to invest in Afghanistan," one man asked.

Poppy problems

During his visit to Kandahar Mr Straw is also due to see drugs officers trained by the UK to fight against opium production.

Kandahar's neighbouring provinces of Oruzgan and Helmand have traditionally been strong poppy growing areas.

The BBC's Kylie Morris in Kandahar says the UK is the lead nation supporting the Afghan Government in its campaign to curb opium production.

There has been a huge increase in poppy production since the fall of the Taleban.

On Monday Mr Straw gave an upbeat assessment of the progress in Afghanistan since the Taleban were ousted.

He said international support had successfully transformed Afghanistan from a pariah state and that life for the overwhelming number of Afghans had been transformed.




SEE ALSO:
More UK troops for Afghanistan
28 Jun 03  |  South Asia
US and Afghan soldiers killed
27 Jun 03  |  South Asia
Back to the future in Kabul
24 Jun 03  |  South Asia
Afghanistan in the grip of opium
18 Jun 03  |  South Asia
Analysis: Perils of peacekeeping
28 Jun 03  |  Middle East


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