Karzi calls on Pakistan to close extremist schools

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September 26, 2006 03:10
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Afghanistan's president called on Pakistan Monday to shut down extremist schools and arrest the people who run them. Hamid Karzi, who has strong US support, has engaged in some sniping with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on countering terrorism. "There will not be an end to terrorism unless we remove the sources of hatred in madrassas and the training grounds," Karzi said in a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for scholars. He is due to meet with President George W. Bush on Tuesday. Then, at dinner Wednesday night, Bush has a three-way meeting scheduled with Karzi and Musharraf. Here last week to see Bush, Musharraf said extremist schools accounted for only about 5 percent of the schools in Pakistan, He acknowledged "we are moving slowly" against them. Karzi said he had no objection to madrassas that teach Islam to young people. "We need preachers in our religion," he said. But he said it was up to Musharraf to deal with the problem of teaching hatred to young children. "Those places have to be closed down," he said. While it is Pakistan's job, the United States could provide some financial help to get it done, Karzai said. Karzi was upbeat about Afghanistan's conflict with insurgents and the country's economic progress. He said, for instance, Afghanistan has $1.9 billion (€1.4 billion) in reserves, up from $180 million (€141 million) in 2002. But he expressed concern - without elaboration - with "radical neighbors who have very dangerous ideas" and said narcotics had supplanted the growing of grapes, raisins, pomegranates, almonds and other crops. Struggling farmers need more help, he said. "Give us the roads and we will give you the best grapes in the world," Karzi said with a smile. At the Pentagon, Karzi told reporters after a meeting with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that while Afghanistan welcomes help in combatting narcotics, the task is ultimately one for Afghans. "We are ashamed of that terrible product hurting us and hurting young people around the world," he said. "Afghanistan will have to fight it and destroy it." At the Wilson center, Karzai condemned the slaying in Kandahar of Safia Ama Jan, a provisional director for Afghanistan's Ministry of Women's Affairs, as an act of radicalism. And he dismissed suggestions that the US attack on Iraq in 2003 motivated militants to engage in violence. "Iraq is not a complicating fator," Karzai said. "Those who hate us for whatever reason hated us before 2001" and the attacks that year on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon. The Afghan president said it would take at least 10 years of dedicated international opposition to defeat terrorism. Later, Karzai accepted an honorary doctor of laws degree from Georgetown University. In brief remarks, he described advances in the social sector in Afghanistan since the collapse of the Taliban militia's rule in 2001. In contrast to the Taliban policy of denying education rights to girls, he said girls now account for 35 percent of school enrollment in the country. He said 80 percent of Afghans now have access to health services, compared with 9 percent under the Taliban. Karzai expressed gratitude for the help and sacrifice of the United States on Afghanistan's behalf over the past five years.

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