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Visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Friday called on the international community to continue providing support to help rebuild his nation, even while the eyes of the world are focused on Iraq.

“Reducing the attention to Afghanistan at this critical time will have obvious negative impact that nobody wants,” Karzai told a news conference at the Japan National Press Club, hinting that instability in the region will not benefit the global community.

“We are confident that international help, especially from the major donor countries, will not be reduced,” he said.

Karzai, who arrived in Japan on Thursday on a four-day visit, is in Tokyo to attend a conference on Saturday, outlining Afghanistan’s disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program.

Although Afghanistan hopes to disarm and demobilize former combatants within a year, it will likely take about three years to complete the program, he said. The DDR program is intended to help reintegrate former soldiers back into society.

There are between 150,000 and 200,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, of which 100,000 will be discharged in line with a reorganization of the country’s military and police forces.

Karzai said he will leave the Iraqi situation in the hands of the United Nations.

“We will go by the decision of the U.N., whatever the decision is,” Karzai said.

He said he hopes the people of Iraq will ultimately be able to choose their own government and way of life.

Karzai said the reconstruction process in his country is progressing smoothly.

“There were no schools, no medical insurance system and there were millions of refugees, mainly in Iran and Pakistan,” he said, referring to the situation when he assumed the leadership of Afghanistan’s interim government in December 2001.

Karzai said 3 million children will attend school by the end of the summer and that 2 million refugees returned to Afghanistan within the first eight months of his leadership.

Basic infrastructure has been built, including highways and a nationwide mobile telecommunication system, he said.

The government budget grew to $450 million this year, of which 80 percent came from donor countries, he said, adding that he hopes that a “considerable amount” of the budget for next year will be funded by Afghanistan.

In January 2002, Tokyo hosted a ministerial conference on Afghan reconstruction, at which attending nations pledged $4.5 billion, or 540 billion yen, in aid.

Japan has pledged humanitarian aid worth 51.2 billion yen. Earlier this week, it promised an additional 4.16 billion yen.

The security situation in Afghanistan remains volatile, however. An assassination attempt was made on Karzai in September in the southern province of Kandahar, and Vice President Haji Abdul Qadir was killed in an ambush in July.

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