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Karzai Completes Talks in India - 2002-02-27

Afghanistan's interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai wrapped up two days of talks in India on Wednesday with agreement on a broad range of issues with New Delhi. Mr. Karzai says Afghanistan's long-exiled King Zahir Shah will return home on a private visit next month.

Even though he only heads an interim government, Hamid Karzai, received a full state welcome during his visit to New Delhi - a sign say Indian officials of how valuable their ties are with his administration.

India was one of the first nations to recognize Afghanistan's interim government following the collapse of the Taleban. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee says his government will contribute an additional $10 million to development efforts in Afghanistan, adding to the $100 million contribution New Delhi pledged at a recent donor conference on Afghanistan held in Tokyo.

"In my meetings with Chairman Karzai, I have assured him that India is committed to provide humanitarian relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation assistance to the Afghan people," he said. "India stands shoulder to shoulder with Afghanistan and its friendly people in their hour of need."

Mr. Vajpayee also says India would be more than willing to contribute peacekeeping troops to help security efforts in Afghanistan. Mr. Karzai says he would consider the offer but it is up to the United Nations Security Council to decide who sends troops to Afghanistan and not his administration.

The interim Afghan leader says he shares India's concerns about terrorism in the region and stability inside Afghanistan. He says the coalition forces now in Afghanistan will remain there for some time.

"Afghanistan has suffered in unbelievable ways at the hands of terrorism and radicalism. The coalition forces and the international security assistance force will stay there as long as Afghans need them," he said. "We are in the process of establishing our own national army and police force and as soon as Afghanistan is stable and firm on its own feet in all aspects and the fight against terrorism has finished and we have determined that it is finished we will ask the international security force to leave."

Mr. Karzai also says Afghanistan's 87-year-old exiled King Zahir Shah, who has lived in Rome for more than two decades, will visit Afghanistan on March 21 - to mark the occasion of the beginning of the Afghan New Year. Afghanistan's interim leader, a long-time supporter of the king, says King Zahir Shah will be visiting his homeland as an elder statesman and a private citizen.