- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2002

"We [Afghans] are what is the English expression?tough cookies," laughed Hamid Karzai, head of Afghanistan's interim government, speaking before a crowd of well-wishers Monday evening at downtown's Ritz-Carlton hotel.The crowd, primarily diplomats and Afghan Americans, responded in kind, grateful for a light touch after so many years of sorrowful news about the emigres' homeland. A large number were members of the Afghan-American Business Community, who gathered under auspices of that day's newly reopened Afghan embassy. They were getting their first glimpse of the interim leader and members of his provisional cabinet who were traveling this week to New York City, Washington and London to drum up support for a country torn apart by 20 years of war.
Mr. Karzai doffed his cap and resplendent green cloak before addressing the crowd. His remarks followed two short videos: one showing Afghanistan with lavish buildings and lush greenery before it was torn apart by civil war and the country's present state of devastation, and another showing a November 2000 meeting of Afghan leaders who were among the earliest fighters in the effort to oust the repressive Taliban regime. A newly sewn red, green and black Afghan flag stood on one side of the podium, the U.S. flag on the other. Both countries' anthems were sung, along with a full-throated reading from the Koran.
"Afghanistan, as you know, went through a lot. But Afghanistan survived and emerged out of ruin," Mr. Karzai told the audience. "Let us speak for the future now. The future is a bright one because people want it. … For the first time in our history, we have an opportunity for people to make our history."
"Before, it was sun, but nobody could see the shining," said Hafiz Abbasi, owner of Alexandria's Afghan Restaurant, while supervising the lavish buffet he had donated for the occasion. He would consider returning to his native Kabul, he said, adding that a nephew had already gone back "to get a contract with the government for some hotels."
The Abbasi and Karzai families are close, he said; both had been in the restaurant business. "I know the Afghan people can [rebuild] with the help of this country."
And the help of other countries, too. Greek Ambassador Alexander Philon noted in conversation that his country's archaeological department was going to help Afghanistan rebuild its famed museum destroyed by Taliban soldiers.
"Greece never formally recognized their government," he said proudly.

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