Karzai pleads with Canada Don't pull out troops

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OTTAWA, Sep 18 (Reuters) Afghan President Hamid Karzai pleaded with Canada today not to withdraw its 2,500 troops when their mission ends in early 2009, saying to do so would only help deliver his country back to the Taliban, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported.

Karzai made his comments to a special meeting of all Canadian reporters based in Afghanistan.

''The presence of Canada is needed until Afghanistan is able to defend itself, and that day is not going to be in 2009,'' a story on the Globe Web site quoted him as saying.

So far 70 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan, most of them in roadside bomb explosions near their base in the southern city of Kandahar.

Canada's minority Conservative government says it will not extend the mission unless Parliament approves the idea, something that seems highly unlikely.

''If you leave prematurely, before we can defend ourselves in terms of our own abilities, government, institutions, and all associated factors, Afghanistan will fall back,'' the Globe quoted Karzai as saying.

Earlier he remarked that ''anarchy will bring back safe havens to terrorists, among other things, and terrorists will then hurt you back there in Canada and the United States.

Simple as that.'' Opposition parties in Canada say the troops have spent far too much time fighting the Taliban, while neglecting the effort to help rebuild the country.

A report on the CTV Web site said Karzai had pledged that if Canada committed its troops to staying longer, he would work to end corruption, rebuild infrastructure and try to bring good government.

REUTERS RC BST0207

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