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President Karzai Meets with Chancellor Merkel and Receives Award in Germany

On March 17, President Hamid Karzai left for Bochum, Germany, commencing a state visit to Germany and France.

Upon his arrival in Bochum, President Hamid Karzai attended an official ceremony where he was presented the International Der Steiger Riser Award. The International Der Steiger Riser Award is given for extraordinary commitment and outstanding achievements in creating a better world, and was awarded to President Karzai to honor his extraordinary leadership in promoting a culture of tolerance.

In an address to teachers and students at the Bochum University, the President said, “Education is of crucial importance to progress of Afghanistan and the cooperation of Germany’s scientific institutions will help Afghanistan make more progress. The President expressed his full support for expanding relations between Afghan Universities and German scientific institutions. The President invited Afghan students studying at Bochum University to return to their country after their graduation, and to take part in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

President Karzai also met with the Minister-President of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia and the representatives from major German companies to discuss the strengthening of trade, investment and economic ties between the two countries. “There are ample investment opportunities in Afghanistan in the areas of energy, construction, mines, telecommunication, and transport and the people of Afghanistan welcome investment by German firms,” said the President.

On March 19 President Karzai traveled to Berlin for meetings with Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the continuation of Germany's assistance to security and reconstruction in Afghanistan.

President Karzai called for greater international investment in his country, especially in the energy sector. He said that Afghanistan needed to develop infrastructure, notably road and railway networks, and highlighted the success of Afghanistan’s mobile phone market, as 2.2 million Afghans now have mobile phones.

The President praised the work of German soldiers in Afghanistan and thanked Germany for its military assistance, including its contribution of over 3,000 troops to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

"The expansion of the German role in Afghanistan is a German decision," he said. "The Afghan people will welcome any decision that the people of Germany will make with regard to their participation in Afghan reconstruction and security."

The President also thanked German lawmakers for their decision to send six Tornado reconnaissance aircraft to Afghanistan in response to a NATO request for more intelligence-gathering equipment.

Following meetings in Berlin, President Karzai departed Berlin for Paris, where he will meet with French President Jacques Chirac, President of France and visit an exhibition of Afghanistan’s Bactrian Gold at the Musee Guimet.

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