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Afghan Leader to VIsit Pakistan - 2002-02-07


Afghan leader Hamid Karzai visits Pakistan Friday for the first time since his interim government took office seven weeks ago.

The (Thursday) surprise announcement ends weeks of speculation about when Mr. Karzai would return to Pakistan, where he lived when the Taleban ruled Afghanistan.

The visit comes months after Pakistan's dramatic shift in support from the Taleban to the U-S-led war on terrorism and the U-N-backed Kabul government headed by Mr. Karzai.

An Afghan diplomat in Kabul is quoted (by the French news agency) as saying nearly one-third of Mr. Karzai's interim cabinet will accompany him to Islamabad. He said the talks will highlight the plight of nearly three-million Afghan refugees now living in Pakistan.

Earlier today, Mr. Karzai convened a commission to organize a grand council of tribal elders (Loya Jirga) -- the next step toward an elected government in Afghanistan. The panel must organize the grand council before the current six-month term of the interim government expires in June.

Under terms of the U-N-backed Afghan power-sharing agreement, the council will chose a transitional government to replace the interim administration. The transitional government is to rule for 18 months before national elections are held.

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