Karzai in Britain for talks, Afghan exhibition launch

1st March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Afghan President Hamid Karzai was to hold talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday before opening a major London exhibition of artefacts from his country.

Karzai, who arrived in London late Monday for a two-day visit, is expected to discuss issues including the planned transition of security responsibility from international troops to their Afghan counterparts in 2014.

His spokesman Siamak Heravi told AFP ahead of the visit that the president would also have discussions with Foreign Secretary William Hague and Defence Secretary Liam Fox.

Later Tuesday, Karzai will inaugurate a major exhibition of Afghan artefacts at the British Museum, which is due to open to the public two days later.

Britain has around 9,500 troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, based in the troubled southern Helmand Province.

That makes it the second largest contributor to ISAF after the United States, fighting the Taliban and other insurgents.

Cameron said last year that all British combat troops will be out of Afghanistan before the end of 2015.

More than 350 British troops have died in Afghanistan since 2001, when the Taliban were ousted from power by a US-led invasion.

Many of the artefacts at the British Museum exhibition have been saved from several decades of civil war and Taliban rule, which saw important parts of Afghanistan's cultural heritage destroyed.

This included the giant Bamiyan Buddhas in central Afghanistan which were blown up by the Taliban in 2001.

The "Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World" exhibition showcases more than 200 objects from the National Museum of Afghanistan, plus artefacts from the British Museum's own collection.

They are intended to highlight the trading and cultural connections of Afghanistan and how it benefited from being an important crossroads in Asia.

The objects, dating from as far back as 2000 BC, were found between 1937 and 1978 and were feared lost following the 1979 Soviet invasion, the subsequent civil war and the Taliban's rule.

They survived thanks to a handful of Afghan officials who deliberately concealed them.

© 2011 AFP

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