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Karzai gets blessing from ex-king

ROME, Italy -- Hamid Karzai, designate leader of Afghanistan, has vowed to take the fight against terrorism to "its absolute end."

The new leader, who takes over the reigns of power on December 22, was visiting the exiled king Mohammad Zahir Shah in Rome on Tuesday.

He has made the trip many times before, but this latest trip is significant because it will pave the way for the former king to return to Kabul after 23 years in exile, CNN's Alessio Vinci said.

Karzai also met Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to discuss the international peace-keeping force which is set to arrive in Afghanistan shortly after the new administration is sworn in. Italy is to contribute some soldiers to the mission.

The designate leader said he felt the "weight of responsibility" with his new role but added his country would see that "the fight against terrorism is taken to its end, its absolute end."

He received the blessing and the personal Koran of the ex-king during their meeting in Rome.

"That was a tremendous, good gesture and a very good blessing," Karzai said.

On the Scene: Past and present leaders meet 
CNN's Alessio Vinci: The king was exiled in 1973(December 18)

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Karzai also said he would tackle terrorism, "warlordism" and the rule of the gun in a country he has to rebuild almost from scratch.

"I am very, very determined...Terrorism has made our people suffer unbelievably difficult times," he told Reuters Television.

He would look to the peacekeeping force to help him restore stability and safety to a country riven by two decades of war, he said.

Karzai also said he would be happy with a foreign peacekeeping force of any size necessary to benefit his country.

"They have killed us," he said of the ousted Taliban and their foreign allies in Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

"They have destroyed our orchards. They have destroyed our vineyards. They tried to destroy Afghanistan.

"They tried to destroy the essence of Afghans. I am very determined to get rid of them, not only in Afghanistan but in the rest of the world too."

The designate leader, chosen to lead his country during talks in Bonn earlier in the month, said he would try Osama bin Laden if he was captured.

Asked where he would like to see the prime suspect in the September 11 attacks put on trial, Karzai said:

"Anywhere. Anywhere that he can see the evils that he has done to the people of the world and to the Afghan people, that the Afghan people finally get some justice for what he and his friend Mullah Omar did to Afghanistan and to the rest of the world," he said, referring also to the fugitive Taliban leader.

Karzai was to return to Afghanistan on Wednesday.

Former king Zahir Shah, who said he had given Karzai "lots of advice" during their meeting, is due to return to Kabul himself next year to open a Loya Jirga, or grand council, to map out the country's future as part of a U.N.-sponsored peace plan.

"He does not intend to go in any official capacity. He is now going back to Afghanistan as an Afghan, a great capacity," Karzai said.


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