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Afghanistan: Interim Leader Leaves For Rome To Escort Former King

Kabul, 16 April 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Afghanistan's interim leader, Hamid Karzai (pictured), today left Kabul for Rome to escort former King Mohammad Zahir Shah back to Afghanistan. Karzai is accompanied on his trip by several ministers and is scheduled to meet Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi during his visit.

Karzai's spokesman, Yusuf Nuristani, said Karzai will return with the former king on 18 April. Zahir Shah is scheduled in June to convene a Loya Jirga, or grand council, that will choose a new Afghan government.

Also today, military officials announced that hundreds of British, American, and Afghan soldiers are searching for Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in an area known to be a base of militant operations.

British Marines spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Paul Harradine said the operations are part of the ongoing campaign against terrorism.

"We said that we would be here for the long haul, and we stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States and our other coalition allies in the global war on terrorism, and that is exactly what we are doing," Harradine said.

The mission in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan is the first combat operation for the main British fighting force.