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Karzai says bin Laden will be caught

Afghan president : Terrorist leader 'still around the region'

Hamid Karzai: "No fugitive can run forever."
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Hamid Karzai talks to CNN's Wolf Blitzer about the hunt for bin Laden.
start quoteThe major lesson in Afghanistan was that the Afghan people wanted change, from the tyranny of terrorism.end quote
-- Afghan President Hamid Karzi
Hamid Karzai
Osama Bin Laden

(CNN) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai predicted Sunday that luck would play a role in catching terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, but he promised "we will get him sooner or later."

Karzai, hand-picked by the Bush administration as interim leader before he handily won election to the presidency in October, told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" that he believed bin Laden was still "around the region."

"No fugitive can run forever," he said. "We will get him sooner or later. And trust me on that. We will do that.

"In terms of the specifics of the Afghan nation and the coalition against terrorism, we are much closer," he added. "In terms of getting him physically, let's count on our luck and good pursuit."

Karzai said Afghanistan was "embarrassed" that cultivation of poppies -- the source of opium -- had risen 64 percent since the Taliban were forced from government.

"It was the misery of the past 30 years that forced Afghans to go to the cultivation of poppy," he said, pledging that his government would "fight the poppy" by destroying the poppy fields and planting "alternative crops."

"That will take a few years to complete, but we have resolved to fight poppies, and we will begin to destroy some of the fields this year, and we will do it," he said.

The CIA-backed anti-Soviet mujahedeen used opium sales to raise money for arms buys. After the Taliban banned poppy cultivation in July 2000, poppy production continued in areas held by the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance.

Karzai dismissed a letter from the London-based Human Rights Watch that alleged "U.S. forces continue to arrest and hold Afghans ... incommunicado and indefinitely, without regard to and in violation of Afghan law" as well as physical abuse of prisoners and an inadequate response from the military to concerns.

"All of us make mistakes," the president said. "American troops have made mistakes here. The Afghan government has made mistakes here. Others have made mistakes here. The coalition forces have made mistakes here. The Afghan people have seen that, and have accepted it. So now, onward."

Karzai, a former lobbyist for the U.S. oil and gas company Unocal, cited the desires of the Afghan people, the international community and the United States as the factors behind October's successful presidential election.

Lessons learned in Afghanistan, he said, would aid Iraq in its upcoming vote.

"The major lesson in Afghanistan was that the Afghan people wanted change, from the tyranny of terrorism," Karzai said. "The Iraqi people also will gain nothing if they allow these people to come from outside and destroy their lives. They must go to polls. They must take this opportunity, elect their people to parliament, and have a government of their own, and have peace. That's a desire for them and a way out for them, from our side."

Afghanistan is slated to hold parliamentary elections in the spring, and Karzai said he looked forward "to a complete democratic system in the country to emerge in another hopefully five to six months."

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