The United States will recognize the new interim administration to be inaugurated in Kabul on Saturday as the official government of Afghanistan. The announcement was made Friday by a senior U.S. official in the Afghan capital.

U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan James Dobbins said the U.S. government will also turn over the Afghan embassy in Washington to the interim government headed by Hamid Karzai.

Speaking to reporters at the U.S. embassy here, Mr. Dobbins said President Bush had invited Mr. Karzai to visit the United States early in the new year.

Ambassador Dobbins said he had met with the new Afghan leader earlier in the day and found him "upbeat." The envoy said he handed him a message from Bush offering his congratulations and inviting him for talks in Washington.

He said Secretary of State Colin Powell also invited foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah to Washington to lay the ground work for the visit.

Ambassador Dobbins was optimistic about the chances that the new government could start the nation building process that would end decades of war. He said the Afghan people want to know that the rest of the world cares about them, that it has not come to pull them apart or take them over but that it is here to help.

He said he believes from his conversations with Afghan leaders that that message is getting through and is welcome.

"When Minister of Defense Fahim met with Secretary Rumsfeld at Bagram, when he asked for international security forces, not just for Kabul but for other cities, he said 'in light of our modern history we don't want to be left alone again.'" he said.

Dignitaries from a number of countries will attend the ceremony on Saturday. Ambassador Dobbins will lead the U.S. delegation which also will include General Tommy Franks, the U.S. military commander who led the U.S. campaign against the Al-Qaida terrorist network and the Taleban, Afghanistan's former rulers.