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Afghanistan: Officials Welcome UN Vote To Expand NATO Force

Kabul, 14 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan officials are welcoming a unanimous UN vote late yesterday that will expand the scope of a NATO-led security force beyond the capital Kabul and its surrounding province. Foreign Ministry spokesman Omar Samad today called the expansion of the 5,500-strong International Security Assistance Force an "important step" toward reconstructing Afghanistan and developing the political process.

Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai has long called for an expansion of the force in order to stop regular attacks in some provincial areas on aid workers, Afghan officials and soldiers, and U.S. troops. Stabilization is considered essential for the success of planned elections in June.

Abdul Hamid Balkhi, the intelligence chief in Kunduz, said he has been "desperately waiting for this decision" and is ready to cooperate with the stabilization force.

Sadokhan Ambarkhil, the deputy governor of the southeastern Paktika province, said his area "urgently" needs the stabilization force.