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12/11/04 - THE KARZAI ADMINISTRATION - 2004-12-13

Hamid Karzai has begun serving a five-year term as Afghanistan's first democratically-elected president. Mr. Karzai thanked the U.S.-led coalition for its help in removing the Islamic extremist Taleban regime from power:

"Without that help, Afghanistan would be in the hands of terrorists, destroyed, poverty-stricken, and without its children going to school and getting education."

But Afghanistan's new president says that the fight "is not yet over. The relationship between terrorism and narcotics," says Mr. Karzai, "and the continued threat of extremism in the region and the world at large are a source of continued concern."

The growing of poppies used in the illegal production of opium is a source of income used by Taleban and al-Qaida remnants. U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney attended Mr. Karzai's inauguration. Mr. Cheney says the U.S. supports President Karzai's pledge to curb opium production and trafficking:

"We strongly support his decision to convene a national council. . .to discuss plans to end the narcotics trade."

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, says that Afghanistan's successful October presidential election is a sign to the Taleban that the Afghan public supports its new government:

"It is time for the Taleban to stop using terrorist tactics that kill Afghanistan's children."

President Karzai says that he is confident and proud that the Afghan people are "determined to rebuild Afghanistan and they're determined to rebuild it fast to live in security." He says the Afghans "long for a country that stands on its own feet."