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Afghan President Calls Protesters Enemies of Progress

  • Ayaz Gul

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks to the media in Kabul
Afghanistan is peaceful, after days of bloody protests over a magazine report that U.S. interrogators in Guantanamo, Cuba allegedly desecrated the Koran. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has blamed "enemies" of Afghanistan's progress and its ties with the international community for the violence. The protest over the alleged desecration is not over.

The anti-U.S. demonstrations that broke out across Afghanistan have claimed the lives of 16 Afghans while more than 100 have been injured.

The protests were triggered by a report in a U.S weekly magazine, Newsweek, that accused American interrogators at the Guantanamo detention facility of desecrating the Muslim holy book.

Senior U.S. officials investigating the incident say they have found no evidence it took place.

The protesters in Afghanistan have also been venting their anger against President Hamid Karzai and his close ties with the United States. In some places, demonstrators attacked and set fire to government offices and police stations, as well as U.N. facilities and offices of aid groups.

Speaking at a news conference Saturday in Kabul, President Karzai said those behind the violence are trying to tarnish Afghanistan's image as it moves toward political and economic stability. He said foreign hands are behind the disturbance, but he did not identify them.

He says the violence is an attack on Afghanistan and the government will fight the threat as it fought Soviet occupiers in the 1980s. The president says he has ordered his security agencies to arrest anyone involved in fanning the unrest whether they are Afghans or foreigners.

But Mr. Karzai dismissed suggestions the protests are actually aimed at the presence of U.S and other allied forces in Afghanistan, saying the country would "go back immediately to chaos" if foreign forces left.

"Without the strategic partnership with America, Afghanistan will not make it as a sovereign, independent nation able to stand on its own feet," he said. "We are seeking partnership with America, with Europe because we cannot fight tricks, interference - hidden or otherwise - in our country."

President Karzai urged the United States to prosecute and punish anyone found guilty of desecrating the Koran, saying such an act is unacceptable to every Muslim.