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Former king urges Afghan peacekeeping boost

Former King Zahir Shah says he is counting the hours until he returns to his homeland
Former King Zahir Shah says he is counting the hours until he returns to his homeland  

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Afghanistan's former king says he will make expansion of an international peacekeeping force his top priority when he returns to his country at the end of the month.

Mohammad Zahir Shah is planning to leave Italy March 25 to head a "Loya Jirga" or grand assembly for an 18-month period.

During that time the Loya Jirga will decide on the shape of a new government for Afghanistan.

In an interview Friday Shah told CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour that ordinarily he would not accept foreign troops in Afghanistan, but these are "extraordinary times".

He said it was clear that international troops are needed to bring security to his country.

The former king, who was deposed in 1973, said he wants more peacekeepers to deploy around the country.

Currently an international peacekeeping force, headed by British troops, is deployed only in Kabul, the Afghan capital. Fewer than 5,000 troops are in that force.

The 88-year-old former monarch said he wants to bring peace and democracy to his country and is counting the hours until he is able to see his homeland and people again.

He said he wants to spend the remaining years of his life in his own county and at the service of his people.

Shah was deposed while on a trip to Italy when his brother-in-law, Mohammad Daud Khan, proclaimed Afghanistan a republic and himself president.

During his time as king of Afghanistan, Shah reasserted the authority of the central government.

He has been residing in Rome for most of the past 29 years.




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