Karzai, seeking Gulf aid, reopens embassy in Emirates
Tuesday February 12, 12:25 AM AFP
Interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai reopened his country's embassy in the United Arab Emirates, marking a new era in relations with one of only three countries to have recognized the former Taliban regime.
Karzai hoisted his country's new flag on a hotel in Abu Dhabi to signal the reopening of the mission at a ceremony attended by Ali al-Shamsi, UAE ambassador to Pakistan and newly-appointed non-resident ambassador to Kabul.
Karzai said he "hoped that the fluttering of his country's flag on UAE soil would be the foundation stone of permanent friendship and brotherhood as well as constructive relations," the official WAM news agency reported.
The Afghan leader's one-day visit to the UAE marked "the opening of a new page" between the two countries, an Emirati official said.
In talks with President Sheikh Zayed bin Rashid al-Nahyan before leaving Abu Dhabi, Karzai thanked the Emirati leader for his contribution to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
The talks, also attended by Emirati Defence Minister Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid al-Maktoum, focused on the "latest developments in Afghanistan and the efforts being exerted to achieve peace, stability and prosperity for the people in Afghanistan," WAM said.
"The Taliban were not representative of Afghanistan," and Arab members of the al-Qaeda terror network who fought with them "were not representative of the Arabs," Karzai earlier told a conference hosted by the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research.
"Neither al-Qaeda nor the Taliban nor a combination of the two represent Islam," he said. What they did was "an aberration of Islam."
The Afghan embassy in Abu Dhabi was shut on September 22, 2001 when the UAE severed ties with Kabul's then ruling Islamic militia following the terror attacks on the United States for which Washington blamed Afghan-based Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network.
Abu Dhabi, which is also preparing to open an embassy in Kabul, is "opening a new page" with Afghanistan and its "legitimate leader," an Emirati official told AFP, noting that it was the first time Karzai had directly addressed an Arab and Muslim audience.
Karzai listed his country's reconstruction priorities in his speech to the conference without directly appealing for aid, stressing instead that "we do not want to keep coming and asking for help; we want very soon to stand on our own feet" and move from being a recipient into a donor country.
But in an interview conducted on behalf of his hosts on the plane that brought him here, Karzai urged the UAE to "contribute to Afghanistan's reconstruction in a way befitting its standing," and urged Gulf states to give "more, more, more aid to Afghanistan, because they are Muslims, they are our neighbors, and they are rich."
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