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Afghan President Talks to VOA About Iraq, Pakistan


Afghanistan's president says he does not fear any repercussions in his country if the United States attacks Iraq. In an interview with VOA, the Afghan leader also says he hopes the religious parties that have won new political power in neighboring Pakistan will work with Afghanistan.

In a VOA interview at the presidential palace, Afghan president Hamid Karzai shrugged off any suggestion that a U.S.-led attack on Iraq would damage his own government.

Mr. Karzai was careful to neither condemn nor condone any U.S. military move against Iraq, but he said Iraq should have a freely chosen government.

"Well, no, I see no backlash," Mr. Karzai said. "The Afghan people are busy building their own country. We like to see the people of Iraq get a government of their choice, get a good life, benefit from the resources they have in the best possible way, and we wish them peace and prosperity."

Mr. Karzai heads a fragile transitional government that is held in place with international help, particularly from the United States. But it has little real power outside of Kabul. Some analysts believe a U.S. attack on Iraq would fan resentment of the Karzai government.

The Afghan president says he hopes religious parties in neighboring Pakistan will work with Afghanistan to rebuild his shattered country.

"I hope that the religious parties there that have won the elections will also be kind towards Afghanistan, will help the Afghan people through their participation in the Pakistani parliament and government to see a better future," President Karzai said.

Although Mr. Karzai was diplomatic on the Islamic parties' electoral victories in Pakistan, many Afghan officials have privately voiced deep concern. In recent elections, a coalition of Islamic parties won control of the two provinces bordering Afghanistan, as well as a significant number of seats in the Pakistan National Assembly. The parties campaigned on an anti-Western platform and some have also been sharply critical of Mr. Karzai's ties to the United States.

Mr. Karzai takes exception to calls from those parties that U.S. trooops and Western peacekeepers be expelled from the region.

"In Afghanistan the U.S. troops and the allied forces and the ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] forces have brought liberation to our country, have freed us from terrorism, have freed us from radicalism and chaos, have helped this country stabilize, have brought us tremendous assistance to rebuild this nation. For us, they are an asset," he said.

Much of Afghanistan remains under the control of warlords who have their own private armies to enforce their will and carry out power feuds with their enemies. Mr. Karzai says the situation will be brought under control. He says he has commissioned reports on the situation in all areas of the country.

"We will act on those reports, and we will not allow lawlessness in this country to continue the way it is right now in pockets here and there," President Karzai said.

But the national army is still in the early stages of training and is not yet ready to be deployed. Asked how he will be able to deal with the lawlessness, he replies, "through the will of the Afghan people."

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