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Afghans Celebrate New Year

On March 21 the traditional Norouz New Year festival was celebrated in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan. Offices and shops remained closed in Kabul and other big cities for the official holiday that inaugurated the year 1386.

In Kabul, a ceremony at Ghazi Stadium was started with the recitation of few verses from the Holy Koran, following which messages from King Zaher Shah and President Hamed Karzai were read out.

In his message for the first day of the New Year, Zaher Shah hailed the reconstruction process and expressed his hope for peace in the New Year.

President Hamid Karzai remarked on the progress made thus far by the Afghan state, and asked the Afghan people for their cooperation in rebuilding the country. He announced that in the new year the government would take decisive steps against corruption.

In Kabul's Sakhi Shrine wrestlers smoothly erect a 26-foot flag pole topped with a bouquet of plastic flowers — a sign of good fortune for the next year. Thousands of people watched the wrestlers erect the pole using ropes, sticks and ladders.

According to belief, if the flag pole falters or falls on its way up, the year's outlook is grim, but a smooth hoisting of the pole is seen as a good sign. The wrestlers hoisted the pole into place in a fluid 20-second run.

In the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif, the flag on the mausoleum of fourth caliph was hoisted by Vice-President Karim Khalili. The ceremony was also attended by first Vice-President Ahmad Zia Masud, as well as Ministers and Parliamentarians.

Other celebrations occured in Jalalabad, Gardez, Khost, Ghazni, Kandahar, Lashkargah, Pol-e Khomri, Fayzabad, Herat, Maymana, Konduz and some other cities and provinces. Millions of Afghans around the country gathered on mountains and rooftops and in forests and parks to picnic, dance, play music and celebrate an auspicious new year.

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