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Karzai Promises to Hand Over Terrorists - 2001-12-19

Afghanistan's designated interim leader, Hamid Karzai, has promised to hand over terrorists to international justice.

Hamid Karzai used strong words against the Taleban. He said he believed that the main phase of the war against the Taleban and against terrorism is over.

But he promised to hunt down holdout Taleban members, searching for their hideouts. "There is no way we can allow them to stay," he said. "They have killed our people, they have destroyed our land. We will finish them till the end."

Mr. Karzai added that the Taleban had caused too much suffering to the Afghan people. He also promised to hand over terrorists to face international justice. He added that the Islamic law of Sharia would be applied to common criminals in Afghanistan.

Mr. Karzai was speaking at the end of a two-day visit to Rome as he prepared to establish an interim government to rule Afghanistan for the next six months. He received the blessing of former Afghan king Mohammed Zahir Shah. "I was also very glad to see his majesty, the former king, present me a copy of the Holy Koran as a guidance for my work inside Afghanistan," said Hamid Karzai. "This was a tremendously nice fatherly gesture."

The 87-year-old former king met with Mr. Karzai at the Rome villa where Mr. Shah has been living since he was ousted from Afghanistan in 1973.

Mr. Karzai said the former monarch would return to Afghanistan to inaugurate the Loya Jirga, the Grand Assembly that will decide the country's future. A date for the former monarch's return to Kabul has not yet been decided.

Meanwhile, during the six-month period that Mr. Karzai's interim government will be in place, a multi-national peacekeeping force will be deployed. The new Afghan leader said he would not oppose the use of force by peacekeepers in order to maintain law and order. "If it takes force to keep peace, why not? The basic element is to keep peace," he said.

That peacekeeping force, he said, will consist of 3,000 to 5,000 men.

Mr. Karzai added that Afghanistan would continue to need the help of the international community because his country's infrastructure needs to be re-built completely.