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Afghanistan, Iraq are Years from Civil Society, says Karzai

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Wednesday that building a civil society in his country and in Iraq will take years to complete. He spoke as a guest at Britain's ruling Labor party conference in Bournemouth, England.

President Karzai said that while day-to-day progress was being made in his country, the process of rebuilding the nation would take many more years to complete and there are no shortcuts. One of the biggest problems in his country, Mr. Karzai said, is restoring law and order.

He acknowledged that many other problems remain, chief among them combating terrorism and the illicit drug trade. He reminded the delegates that support from the West would be needed long after Afghanistan is no longer in the headlines.

"The end result of the cooperation of civilizations for Afghanistan will be democracy, prosperity, peace and dignity for our people and by extension for the region and by extension peace for the rest of the world," said the Afghan leader. "And we in Afghanistan are determined to do that. And we are sure, ladies and gentlemen, that help from the rest of the world, from the [United Kingdom] as well, will continue to be with us."

Mr. Karzai, who backed the U.S.-led war in Iraq, said the process of rebuilding Iraq deserves strong international support.

"I wanted them to get help as we got [help]," he said. "And I wish all the best for my brothers and sisters in Iraq. And I hope that they will very soon have a government of their own. I wish them freedom, liberty, freedom of the press, political parties, elections and their own self-determination in that they will go one day to the ballot box and vote."

Mr. Karzai will meet with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in Afghanistan, where the two will discuss the current security situation and American pledges of funding.

The Bush administration is asking the U.S. Congress for an additional $1.2 billion for Afghanistan.