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Afghan leader urges U.N. to extend security force mandate

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai asked the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to extend and expand the mandate of multinational security forces in Afghanistan.

Karzai made his remarks to the Security Council as a skirmish was reported between rival Pashtun factions in eastern Afghanistan. He said the multinational security forces should stay to foster stability and end fighting.

"Our people look upon the presence of these forces as a sign of continued commitment of the international community to peace and security in Afghanistan," Karzai said, addressing the 15-member body for the first time. "Many world leaders have reassured our nation of their commitment."

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Karzai said Afghanistan is intent on establishing "the national institutions" that would ensure the security of Afghans.

"Creation of a national police force and a national army, however, will require some time," he said. "The extension of the presence of multinational forces in Kabul and expanding their presence to other major cities will signal the ongoing commitment of the international community to peace and security in Afghanistan."

Karzai told the council that his fellow citizens envision "a prosperous, secure and peaceful Afghanistan."

"We are marching ahead with the objectives of building a credible state with an efficient and transparent government," he said. "Our government shall be accountable to its citizens as well as to the international community.

"We will build an effective and competent private sector, harnessing the entrepreneurial abilities of the Afghan people, and will develop a civil society with democratic institutions," Karzai said.

Karzai said the new Afghanistan is interested in living in peace with its neighbors and hopes to promulgate "open trade and regional economic cooperation."

"We extend a hand of friendship to all our neighbors. We are not prisoners of the past," he said.

'Afghans understand America's pain'

Later Wednesday, Karzai and New York Gov. George Pataki surveyed the bombed-out World Trade Center site from a viewing deck and placed a wreath of yellow roses at a memorial wall. Other members of the Afghan interim government accompanied them.

Karzai said the people who launched the attacks in New York "destroyed exactly the same way [in Afghanistan] as they did here."

New York Gov. George Pataki, left, greeted Karzai at the World Trade Center disaster site.
New York Gov. George Pataki, left, greeted Karzai at the World Trade Center disaster site.  

"They were against life itself. They were against the essence of life, of being," he said. "And our people, the Afghan people, they know the pain of American people better than all other people because the Afghan people have lost exactly in the same way, exactly in same way.

"They were killed; their buildings were destroyed in the most brutal manner, and the Afghans understand America's pain."

Karzai said viewing the site brought forth feelings of grief, horror and disbelief.

Karzai, who had been to the World Trade Center before and recalled the height of the towers, said, "I expected to see them standing."

He said the site was akin to the destruction of the Buddha statues in Afghanistan.

The Taliban destroyed two ancient Buddha statues in March on the grounds that the "idolatrous" sculptures offended Muslims. The statues -- 1,800 years old and 53 meters high -- were hewn into a cliff face in the Bamiyan valley in central Afghanistan.

Afghans, Karzai said, are grateful to the American people for their help in the war against terror, and he promised the people of New York that they will see the faces of those responsible for the terror on trial and that they will receive justice.

Karzai said President Bush on Monday offered to help train the Afghan military.

"I think the offer that the U.S. president made is the best thing that he could have made to Afghanistan, and we're glad for that," Karzai said. "With America's help, we will mend our country, and we are asking for that."




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