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Karzai To Meet EU, NATO Leaders

Hamid Karzai (file photo) 11 May 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai is due to hold talks with European Union and NATO leaders today in Brussels as he continues a European tour.

Karzai is expected to meet with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

NATO, which leads a security force in Kabul and Afghanistan's north, is currently working to expand its operations to the west of the country to help rebuilding efforts.

Addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France yesterday, Karzai thanked the Europeans for their support and asked for a long-term commitment to Afghanistan.

Referring to Europe's recovery after World War II, Karzai said that Europe then had a "long-term commitment" from its friends to rebuild itself -- now his country needs the same type of help, he said.

Pointing to a recent UN Human Development Report on Afghanistan, Karzai said that his country's social development indicators are "still dismal."

On a more positive note, the Afghan leader highlighted the success of the disarmament program by which more "than 50,000 former combatants have been disarmed, and over 95 percent of the heavy weaponry has been cantoned."

Karzai also said that his country enjoys a free press and that there are more than 300 "independent papers, more than 30 radio and four independent TV stations."