U.S. visit by Afghan leader Hamid Karzai expected, administration official says

Thursday, January 3rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Hamid Karzai, the pro-Western leader who took charge of Afghanistan's interim government two weeks ago, is expected to visit the United States to thank the American people for their support, an administration official said Thursday.

The official said the idea of a visit has been discussed with Karzai but no date has been set. Both sides agree that a U.S. visit by Karzai, the first by an Afghan leader in almost 40 years, is a good idea, said the official, asking not to be identified.

Karzai's accession Dec. 22 following five years of rule by the Taliban militia brought to power the first Afghan leader friendly to the United States in a generation.

The U.S. embassy in Afghanistan reopened two weeks ago after being shuttered for 12 years. The last ambassador to serve there was Adolph Dubs, who was killed in a shootout in 1979 after being taken hostage by Islamic radicals.

Karzai is expected to visit Japan later this month for a conference of countries willing to assist in Afghanistan's reconstruction.

The U.S. official raised the possibility that Karzai may travel to the United States after his visit to Japan. It is not clear whether that time frame is convenient for President Bush and Karzai, the official said.

Karzai has been a frequent visitor to the United States. In recent years, his visits were aimed at promoting the anti-Taliban cause.