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Afghanistan: Karzai, Former King At Afghan Independence Celebrations

Kabul, 19 August 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Afghanistan's former King Mohammad Zahir Shah joined the country's president, Hamid Karzai, today for celebrations marking Afghanistan's independence from British rule 83 years ago. The two were met with applause and cheers as they arrived at Kabul's sports stadium to watch festivities that included performances by stilt walkers, judo experts, and a woman parachutist who landed in the middle of the stadium.

Women and schoolgirls, who were barred from public life under the Taliban, played a central role in the proceedings for the first time in six years.

The traditional military parade was cancelled because of what officials said was lack of funds. In a speech, Karzai paid tribute to the "sacrifices of the youth of Afghanistan."

Education Minister Yunus Qanuni also saluted Ahmed Shah Massoud, the military leader of the Northern Alliance who was assassinated by suspected Al-Qaeda militants on 9 September last year. The celebrations ended with Karzai releasing a white dove of peace into the air.