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Karzai opens Kabul air terminal

Hamid Karzai walked through a metal detector at the airport opening
President Karzai walked through a metal detector at the new terminal

Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai has inaugurated a new terminal at Kabul airport as part of efforts to rebuild the country after decades of conflict.

Mr Karzai called on passengers and staff to look after the terminal, which cost $35m (22m), funded by Japan.

Officials say it can handle a million travellers a year, from domestic and international flights.

The old terminal at Kabul airport had become a symbol of the decline in the country's infrastructure.

"I hope, now this facility has been handed over to us, that our sisters and brothers, those in charge of the airport, the passengers passing through, the state officials and MPs using it, will look after it and they should not allow, God forbid, that we come here after a year and find its windows, doors and tiles broken," Mr Karzai said.

Afghan officials are describing it as another step towards progress after the fall of the Taleban.

Former glory

The increasing number of international travellers flying into Kabul over recent years, including aid workers, will be looking forward to using it, after suffering years of cramped, basic and outdated facilities, says BBC Afghan analyst Pam O'Toole.

The old airport was in some ways a barometer of Afghanistan's fortunes over the decades.

When it was originally built, the old terminal was regarded as ultra modern, a fashionable place to visit, and many Afghans have fond memories from the 1960s of going there to eat and socialise.

After the Soviet invasion in 1979 and the subsequent civil war, the airport complex was increasingly used for military as well as passenger aircraft.

It became a target for rocket attacks, leaving the grounds littered with the wreckage of planes.

By the time the Taleban were ousted, it had been badly battered by decades of war.

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