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Top US Diplomat Visits Kabul - 2003-05-09

A top U.S. diplomat has held talks with officials of the U.S.-backed interim Afghan administration in Kabul. The discussions focused on security issues and efforts to rebuild war-shattered Afghanistan.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage met President Hamid Karzai and other senior officials in the Afghan capital. The Bush administration envoy says he assured Afghan leaders that Washington has not forgotten its responsibilities to Afghanistan, despite America's heavy new responsibilities in post-war Iraq.

Mr. Armitage said the United States is able to undertake two major jobs at the same time. He said U.S. combat forces will not leave Afghanistan until President Karzai's government and the Afghan people feel secure.

Mr. Armitage said that Afghanistan's security concerns along its border with Pakistan were discussed in Kabul. He said the mountainous border is porous, and the Pakistani tribal regions are well known for their independence. However, the U.S. diplomat said more needs to be done to ensure that the remnants of the deposed Taleban, supposedly hiding across the border, are eliminated.

Afghan authorities have repeatedly alleged that Taleban fighters are slipping across the border from neighboring Pakistan, and that senior Taleban leaders are hiding in tribal regions of Pakistan, as well as in its cities.

Mr. Armitage says the United States does not support a recent appeal by the United Nations for international peacekeepers to be deployed outside Afghanistan's capital, Kabul.

He handed a check to the Afghan government for $100,000 to help refurbish the country's National Museum in Kabul. Most of the contents in the building have been destroyed by decades of conflict.

Mr. Armitage stopped briefly in Kabul between visits to Pakistan and India, a trip meant to encourage those two countries to resolve their long-standing differences.