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Karzai, Layton find common ground

Last Updated: Sunday, September 24, 2006 | 8:04 AM ET

NDP Leader Jack Layton says he and Afghan President Hamid Karzai agree that military might alone isn't enough to secure Afghanistan's long-term stability.

Layton, who has called for the withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan, made the comments after a meeting with the Afghan president in Montreal on Saturday.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai thanks members of Canada's armed forces during his visit to Montreal on Saturday.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai thanks members of Canada's armed forces during his visit to Montreal on Saturday.
(Ian Barrett/Canadian Press)
Layton said any political solution to Afghanistan's problems needs to include Pakistan, and he repeated his call for a comprehensive peace plan.

During his visit to Canada, Karzai has praised both the military's combat and reconstruction roles in his war-torn country.

Karzai tried to focus on reconstruction as he met in Montreal with officials of non-governmental groups, including those working to rebuild institutions in Afghanistan, such as the legal system.

Message of thanks

Repeating his message of thanks delivered in Ottawa on Friday, Karzai again praised efforts to bring security to his country, and offered condolences to the families of four Canadian soldiers who were killed by a suicide bomber last Monday near Kandahar.

"It's a tremendous loss for them, but we can tell them one thing — that those four soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan were helping Afghan children, with candies, with notebooks, when that suicide bomber came and struck them," he said. "They're there helping an extremely suffering nation get security."

The blast wounded at least a dozen children and 10 Canadian soldiers who were patrolling the community of Kafir Band in Panjwaii district.

The bodies of the four soldiers returned to Canada on Saturday, arriving at CFB Trenton in eastern Ontario.

Following a brief visit with Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay at city hall, the two strolled through the city, where Karzai mingled with stunned Montrealers.

"[Canada's support] means a lot to us," Karzai told a slightly bemused woman. "For the taxpayers' money that you send, for the soldiers that you send, your sons and daughters — they help us immensely."

"Merci mille fois," he added, using the French expression for "thank you, a thousand times."

Karzai meets Quebec-based soldiers

Karzai talked about the latest casualties after meeting 17 soldiers from the Quebec City area to bolster support for the mission, expanded recently to include members of the Royal 22nd Regiment, the famed Van Doos of Valcartier, Que.

As many as 150 members of the regiment are scheduled to leave for Afghanistan in five months. Canada currently has more than 2,000 soldiers in the country. Thirty-six Canadian soldiers and a diplomat have died in the Afghanistan mission since 2002. 

Gen. Rick Hillier, Canada's chief of defence staff, said earlier this month that troops from CFB Valcartier will provide security for the reconstruction teams rather than directly engage the Taliban.

The Afghan president's four-day visit to Canada will end Sunday as he heads to Washington for meetings with U.S. President George W. Bush.

With files from the Canadian Press

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James Cudmore reports for CBC-TV
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