Karzai needs support after Afghan poll

Hamid Karzai believes that Afghanistan's elections this week should not be a signal for foreign forces to disengage but rather to increase support until the country can stand on its own feet.

Speaking to government officials and tribal elders in the western city of Herat ahead of Sunday's vote, Hamid Karzai said it would be years before Afghanistan was able to go it alone and foreign troops and money were still needed.

"The international community should not immediately think Afghanistan's work has been done and it's over and let the Afghan people forge ahead with their work with their own resources.

"No, of course not, we want the international community not only to continue their contributions to Afghanistan, particularly monetary ones, after the establishment of parliament, but also to increase them so the success reaches maturity."

The elections for a national assembly and provincial councils are the next big step in Afghanistan's difficult path to stability. They follow Karzai's presidential election win last October.

The polls mark the formal end to a four-year process of international support launched in Bonn after U.S.-led forces overthrow the Taliban, but international players are to meet in London in January to chart a new programme of assistance.

The United Nations said last week Afghanistan's political transition remained far from secure and long-term international commitment was needed.

Karzai's comments came as U.S. officials said Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would step up pressure on NATO allies on Tuesday to drop restrictions on their troops' role in Afghanistan.

Security has been the main worry in the run-up to the election which will determine what kind of parliament Karzai will have to deal with.

In an interview broadcast on Tuesday, Karzai defended the fact that people accused of human rights abuses had been allowed to run in the elections, saying it was in the interests of national reconciliation.

According to Reuters he also reiterated his view that U.S. and other international forces should reconsider their approach to bringing peace to Afghanistan so as to focus on the "sources of terrorism" where extremists get their training and inspiration, but stopped short of pointing the finger at neighbouring Pakistan.