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Danish Foreign Minister Arrives In Kabul For Talks With Karzai

Danish Foreign Minister Arrives In Kabul For Talks With Karzai

Newly-appointed Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen, the first woman to hold the post in the scandinavian country's history, arrived in Kabul on Monday on her maiden visit to Afghanistan for talks with President Hamid Karazai and other top officials.

Espersen who flew in a military transport aircraft said she wanted to see first hand what the Afghan government wanted.

"I am looking forward to getting at first hand what the Afghan government wants," Espersen told media.

Espersen will also meet Danish and international diplomats as well as military officials in Afghanistan, reports said. Earlier on Monday, she had a meeting with her Afghan counterpart Zalmai Rassoul during which she wore a headscarf (Hijab)despite the strong views expressed by her Conservative Party which is opposed to Danish Muslims wearing the Hijab in public.

However, Espersen found no contradiction in this and instead said she was merely respecting local customs and even quoted the popular saying, "While in Rome be a Roman" in her defense.

"Most of the women here try to cover their hair and I think it's appropriate to do so when I meet one of the government's representatives. We have the expression when in Rome do as the Romans do and I think that must be respected," she said.

At the meeting with Rassoul, Espersen mainly focussed on the issue of protecting the rights of Afghan women and the transition process which will see local forces being entrusted with the task of maintaining security in the war-ravaged country.

Continuance of Danish troops in Afghanistan is a highly divisive issue in Denmark which has committed 750 troops to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) with the Danish Parliament set to discuss the matter.

The minority goverment headed by Liberal Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen and his political ally, the Danish People's Party, have so far refused to set a time-frame for withdrawing Danish troops as demanded by the main Opposition Social Democrats.

by RTT Staff Writer

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