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Karzai Says Upsurge of Narcotics Feeding Terrorism


Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the upsurge of narcotics in his country is feeding terrorism and is an embarrassment to the Afghan people. In a speech in Washington, Mr. Karzai also called for Pakistan to close down any religious schools that are teaching hatred and religious extremism to young people.

President Karzai told an audience at the Wilson Center that growing poppies to produce heroin represents about 30 percent of Afghanistan's economy.

"It is a very serious problem. It is what also is feeding terrorism," he said. "It is an embarrassment to us, the Afghan people. But it is, as much as we hate it, as much as it is an embarrassment, it is also unfortunately a reality, an economic reality."

Mr. Karzai says the Afghan government is committed to destroying poppy production, but that international assistance is needed.

He predicted it could take 10 years to completely eradicate the crop.

The Afghan president also spoke of the recent resurgence of Taleban militants in southern Afghanistan.

U.S. military officials have expressed concerns about the upsurge in fighting, which has worsened despite the presence of 21,000 American troops and about 19,000 soldiers from other NATO nations.

Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been strained over accusations from Afghan officials that Islamabad is not doing enough to fight militants who are crossing their long, mountainous border.

Pakistan rejects the accusation, saying it has deployed 80,000 troops in remote border areas.

During his speech, President Karzai says Pakistan must close religious schools, or madrassas, he says are training suicide bombers and other terrorists.

"There will not be an end to terrorism unless we remove the sources of hatred in madrassas, the training grounds and the reliance of some entities in that part of the world on extremism as instruments of policy," he said.

Mr. Karzai is scheduled to hold talks with President Bush on Tuesday. The two men are scheduled to have dinner Wednesday with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and are expected to discuss cooperation in the war on terror.

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