In New York Friday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he supports efforts to free the Iraqi people from the government of Saddam Hussein.

The Afghan leader stopped short of endorsing any potential military action in his discussion with members of the independent Council on Foreign Relations. But in response to a question about "regime change" in Iraq, Mr. Karzai said he would like to see life improve for the people of Iraq.

"I wanted Afghanistan to have a good life, the people of our country to be free of torture and repression, the same way I would want, as a human being, all other societies to be free of torture and repression," he said. "And the people of Iraq, who are great people by the way, very educated. In the Arab world, the Iraqis are among the best educated. If there is a way to bring to them a better life and government, good. We'll go for it."

Mr. Karzai said photographs of Iraqi Kurds, murdered by Saddam Hussein in a poison gas attack more than a decade ago, still haunt him.

He re-iterated the Afghan peoples' determination to play an essential role in the overall war on terrorism.

"There is no way, ladies and gentleman, that Afghanistan will let down its guard in the fight against terrorism," he said. "Because we were the first and the worst victims of it. We were slaughtered for years. Our people - our women, our children - were killed in exercises by terrorists training on guns and equipment and weapons."

The Afghan president also stressed his nation's continuing need for a visible international security presence. He says his people need to know that "the international community will not abandon Afghanistan again, as it did after the withdrawal of the former Soviet Union."