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Ironduke
02 Oct 03,, 05:23
Karzai to run for re-election

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has told the BBC that he will stand in next year's presidential election, and says he has begun setting up a political movement.
Mr Karzai made the announcement in an interview with BBC News Online's Talking Point Live programme.

He also said Afghanistan would ban political parties from having their own militias, and prevent members of the army from engaging in political activity.

His announcement came hours after he told the UK's governing Labour party conference that the creation of civil society in Afghanistan will "take years to complete".

And he appealed to the international community to show the patience to continue supporting his reform programme.

He warned delegates that the hardline Islamic Taleban movement - deposed by US-led forces nearly two years ago - was still a threat.

Responding later to readers' questions in the Talking Point interview, Mr Karzai said he was pleased with the international support he was getting.

He also urged his neighbours, particularly Pakistan, to take measures to stop anti-Afghan attacks in the name of Islam.

Female education

President Karzai said there had been huge progress in his country since the fall of the Taleban.

"Today we have 4.2 million children going to school," he said.

Forty per cent of those involved in education are women, he said - a reference to the Taleban's ban on women and children in schools.

"We are rebuilding national institutions," he told delegates, to warm applause. And he pointed to progress in the establishment of a national army and the creation of a new national currency.

But he warned of grave problems. He said of extremists: "They still lurk around... terrorism is still challenging our lives."

US-led forces have sustained a number of casualties in operations against the Taleban in south-eastern Afghanistan in recent weeks. The Taleban have vowed to regain power.

Mr Karzai also stressed that the rule of law applies to "not even 45%" of Afghanistan. "We still have armed gangs," he said.

But he expressed confidence that the Afghan people could overcome their problems.

And he also restated his support for the US and UK war to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.

Taleban plea

Mr Karzai told BBC News Online's Talking Point that his government was not trying to eliminate the Taleban.

He said only a small minority of the Taleban were involved in terrorism and that many had simply gone back to their villages.


"Nobody wants to eliminate the Taleban," Mr Karzai said. "They are part of our country."

The president said he was only against terrorism and not peaceful Taleban members. "I would like them to come back to be part of Afghanistan too."

Mr Karzai again suggested the roots of recent terrorist attacks came from outside Afghanistan's borders.

He said if extremism had any place in Afghanistan, the Taleban regime would not have been thrown out in a month at the end of 2001.

"The people chased them out," he said.

When Mr Karzai returns to Afghanistan he will receive visiting US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage on Friday.

The two men will discuss the security situation and US pledges of funding.

US President George W Bush has asked Congress for another $1.2bn for Afghanistan, mainly to fund the new Afghan national army and for infrastructure projects such as roads, hospitals and schools.

Mr Karzai said on Talking Point he was pleased with the "double assurance" he had received in visits to New York and London that Afghanistan would not be forgotten.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/3154408.stm