Karzai demands fewer airstrikes in Afghanistan-media

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NEW YORK, Oct 25 (Reuters) Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants the US military to limit airstrikes against insurgents because they are killing too many civilians, the Afghan leader says in a US television interview.

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan fuel resentment of foreign forces and Karzai's Western-backed government. He has repeatedly asked US and NATO troops to do everything they can to minimize civilian deaths.

''The Afghan people understand that mistakes are made. But five years on, six years on, definitely, very clearly, they cannot comprehend as to why there is still a need for air power,'' Karzai told CBS program ''60 Minutes,'' in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday, according to a partial text released by the network.

Asked if he wanted less use of air power, Karzai said, ''Absolutely. Oh, yes, in clear words and I want to repeat that, [there are] alternatives to the use of air force and I will speak for it again through your media.'' More than 370 civilians have been killed this year in NATO operations against militants, according to estimates by aid workers and Afghan officials.

NATO disputes this figure but acknowledges some civilians have been killed, mostly when Taliban insurgents attack from civilian houses.

Karzai faces growing criticism over rampant corruption, insecurity, booming drug cultivation and a failure to raise living standards in the country. He has warned that more civilian casualties would destabilize his government and threaten the continued presence of foreign troops.

Reuters SZ VP0300

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