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Bush, Karzai Prepare to Meet at White House


Afghanistan's president is taking strong issue with claims he is not doing enough to curtail production of opium, the raw material for heroin. That is just one of the issues expected to be on the agenda when Hamid Karzai meets Monday at the White House with President Bush.

A front page story in the New York Times has called into question the Afghan government's determination to eradicate the nation's poppy crop.

The poppies provide opium paste, which is ultimately turned into heroin. Production has soared since the fall of the Taleban regime in 2001, and Afghanistan is now believed to provide as much as 90-percent of the world supply.

President Karzai has sworn to fight the problem. But according to the New York Times report, U.S. diplomats in Kabul have sent a lengthy message to Washington, saying he has not done enough.

During an appearance on CNN's Late Edition program, the Afghan leader sharply rejected the notion his government has been lax in taking on the drug trade. He said progress has been made this year.

"We are going to have probably all over the country, at least 30-percent poppies reduced, already have been reduced. So we have done our job," he said. "The Afghan people have done our job."

He said the problem lies in parts of the country where crop eradication programs are in the hands of foreigners, saying these efforts to reduce the production of opium are often poorly run and under funded.

"Instead of blaming Afghanistan, the international community must now come and fulfill its own objective to the Afghan people," said Mr. Karzai. "They must not spend money on projects they cannot deliver properly in Afghanistan."

President Karzai was also asked about reports that U.S. troops have mistreated detainees in Afghanistan. He said he will condemn such practices in no uncertain terms during his stay in Washington, and will make his views on the matter clear to President Bush.

"We are angry about this. We want justice. We want the people responsible for this sort of brutal behavior punished and tried and made public."

U.S. military officials have said such acts are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. President Karzai said he also realizes that if such abuses occurred they were the acts of a few.

"We tell Afghans, we tell the rest of the world that the behavior of one or two soldiers or interrogators must not reflect on the United States or on the U.S. people. There are bad people everywhere," he said.

On Saturday, Hamid Karzai urged the United States to hand over all Afghans still in its custody. He also said he would demand more say over operations by U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan - a point he repeated on American television.

President Karzai made specific mention of raids by U.S. forces on Afghan homes, saying they should be approved in advance by his government. He noted that while the United States helped liberate Afghanistan, it now has a constitution and democratically elected leaders, and the Afghan people feel they own their country.

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