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Bush Apologizes to Afghan President After Controversial Senate Visit - 2003-03-11

U.S. President George W. Bush has personally apologized to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the treatment he received during a recent appearance before the U.S. Senate. The unusual apology came in a telephone call on Saturday.

At first the White House said only that the two leaders talked about Afghan reconstruction. But after word of the apology began to come out of Kabul, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer revealed more details of the conversation to reporters.

Mr. Fleischer said there is a long tradition of foreign leaders being treated with a certain "decorum" by members of the U.S. Congress. He said in this particular case, President Bush thought an apology was warranted.

During a visit to Washington in late February, President Karzai went before the Senate Foreign Relations committee. Usually such meetings are held in private, but the committee instead invited the Afghan leader to a hearing room with reporters present.

He was seated at a witness table, where he unexpectedly faced some harsh questioning from a few senators. They seemed skeptical, and accused him of painting a far too positive picture of conditions in Afghanistan.

During that appearance, Mr. Karzai talked about progress in his country since the war on terrorism ousted the Taleban regime in late 2001. He cited statistics showing that refugees are returning home and children are back in school. But he also said that much more remains to be done, and he urged the United States not to abandon Afghanistan should it opt for military action to disarm Iraq.