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Archive for Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Afghan king on way home

April 17, 2002

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— Afghan leader Hamid Karzai arrived Tuesday in Rome to escort the nation's deposed king back home after nearly three decades of exile in Italy and nearly one month after security reasons forced the former monarch to delay his trip.

Mohammad Zaher Shah, a Pashtun, originally was to have returned March 23, but the trip was delayed for security reasons.

Zaher Shah, 87, and Karzai, who were in talks Tuesday with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, were scheduled to leave today for Afghanistan. The former king has lived in Italy since he was ousted in a palace coup by his cousin in 1973.

"People are waiting for the old man to come. It will help bring peace to the country," Karzai's top spokesman, Yusuf Nuristani, said in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

International peacekeepers in Kabul have trained 40 Afghan bodyguards who will form part of Zaher Shah's security detail. A special police unit will coordinate 24-hour protection for the former king, with 50 officers stationed inside a private, gated house where Zaher Shah will live and 100 more taking up positions outside, officials said in Kabul.

Zaher Shah will return with about 20 family members and advisers, flying for the last leg of the flight in an Italian military jet outfitted against possible missile strikes.

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