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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 March, 2005, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Laura Bush praises Afghan women
Laura Bush in Kabul
Mrs Bush said Afghan democracy needed women's participation
US First Lady Laura Bush has been visiting the Afghan capital, Kabul to express her support for women's education programmes.

Mrs Bush flew in for just a few hours, unveiling a multi-million dollar package of education funding.

She told a gathering at Kabul University that "incredible progress" had been made for women over the past few years.

Women were forbidden from education and work under the Taleban regime.

School funding

Mrs Bush, on her first trip to the country, flew into Bagram air base on Wednesday and then on to the capital in a military helicopter.

Laura Bush and Hamid Karzai
The terror when [women] were denied their rights by tyranny has been replaced by a young democracy with equal rights
Laura Bush

The First Lady, a former teacher and librarian, visited a restoration programme for a women's dormitory at a teacher training institute.

She unveiled a package of funding, including $17.7m for a new American university and $3.5m for an international elementary school.

She told a gathering of about 400 people at Kabul University: "It's an extraordinary privilege to celebrate the incredible progress made by the Afghan people over the past few years, with women now being teachers, doctors, businesswomen and ministers."

She added: "The United States is strongly committed to the participation of women in society, not only in Kabul but in every province."

Mrs Bush, whose husband has yet to visit Afghanistan, said the development of Afghan democracy needed "the participation of both men and women".

The First Lady has also met President Hamid Karzai and US troops serving in the country.

Jalalabad blast

Shortly before her arrival, one person was killed in a car bomb explosion in Jalalabad, about 120km (75 miles) east of Kabul. The blast took place in front of the office of the provincial governor, reports say.

Police said the victim was in the vehicle.

"At this stage we cannot confirm if the victim was a suicide bomber," Nangarhar police chief Hazrat Ali is reported as saying.

On Saturday, four US soldiers were killed in an explosion in central Afghanistan, triggered when their vehicle struck a mine.

US and Afghan officials say that militants allied to the Taleban, which was ousted by US-led forces in late 2001, are expected to step up attacks with the onset of spring.

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