Obama, Karzai lament Quran burning, Mazar attack
WASHINGTON (PAN): US President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai deplored the desecration of the Quran and "strongly condemned" the consequential deadly attack on the UN mission in Mazar-i-Sharif.
Speaking via video teleconference, the two leaders expressed "deep regret" for the tragic loss of life, as eight UN workers were killed on April 1 when the burning of Quran in Florida on March 20 sparked protests and some protesters opened fire, killing eight workers of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan Mazar-i-Sharif office.
The two presidents made clear that it is "an affront to human decency and dignity" to attack and kill innocent people and agreed that "now is a time for our two nations to come together, in the pursuit of common values and common goals," the White House said.
In their one-hour talk, the two leaders also discussed other topics, including transition to Afghan security lead starting in July and the ongoing strategic partnership negotiations between their countries, the White House said.
It said Obama welcomed Karzai's announcement on March 22 of the first tranche of provinces and municipalities to begin transition to Afghan lead, adding that the two leaders "agreed on the importance of reestablishing peace in Afghanistan through progress on transition, an enduring US-Afghan strategic partnership and reconciliation."
This was the first top level contact between the two countries after the recent spate of violence and demonstrations in Afghanistan against the burning of the holy Quran by a radical Florida pastor last month. At least 10 UN people died when a demonstration turned violent and attacked a UN compound in Mazar-e-Sharif.
“Both leaders deplored the desecration of the Koran, strongly condemned the April 1 attack on UNAMA in Mazar-e-Sharif and expressed deep regret for the tragic loss of life. The two Presidents were clear that to attack and kill innocent people is an affront to human decency and dignity,” the statement said.
The video teleconference came one day after the White House sent a report to Congress stating that the Taliban has gained strength in Pakistan's borders with Afghanistan in recent months despite a sustained government offensive.
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