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Interim Afghan Leader Meets Ex-King in Rome

The leader of Afghanistan's interim government, Hamid Karzai is holding talks with the country's former monarch, Mohammad Zahir Shah in Rome. Mr. Karzai is also expected to meet with high-ranking Italian officials.

Hamid Karzai is meeting with Mohammad Zahir Shah at the villa in Rome where the king has been living in exile since 1973. The two Afghan leaders are expected to discuss the future of their country and the monarch's possible return to Kabul.

Mr. Karzai was designated to head Afghanistan's new interim government for six-months during U.N.-sponsored talks on Afghanistan held this month in Bonn, Germany. It is his first trip outside Afghanistan since then.

The 46-year-old Afghan is expected to take office as prime minister Saturday in Kabul. He says he is confident about his country's future.

Mr. Karzai is a member of the dominant Pashtun tribe. He was given strong support to run the interim government by the so-called Rome group of the former Afghan king, who is also a Pashtun.

News reports say the 87-year-old monarch should be returning to his country sometime in 2002 to open a grand council of Afghan leaders, known as a "loya jirga."

That council will draft a constitution and establish a judicial system and police force. It will also set up a transitional Afghan government that is expected to stay in power for two years.

During his two-day stay in Rome, Mr. Karzai will also be meeting with other members of the king's group of relatives and advisers. He will be holding talks with the Italian prime minister and foreign minister.