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Bush Makes Surprise Visit to Afghanistan

President Bush has made a surprise visit to Afghanistan. Mr. Bush made a secret detour to Kabul on his way to talks in India and Pakistan.

President Bush says he wanted to come to Afghanistan to show his support for the young democratic government of Hamid Karzai.

Presidents George W. Bush and Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday "Our commitment is firm," he said. "Our desire is to see this country flourish and set a great example not only in the neighborhood but around the world."

The trip was kept secret until the very last minute.

It was not officially announced until the blue and white U.S. presidential jet landed at the Bagram military base, north of Kabul.

Mr. Bush's motorcade sped him into the capital city, where he met for the first time on Afghan soil with President Hamid Karzai. Security was extremely tight, with helicopters buzzing overhead and military vehicles on patrol.

During a brief session with reporters at Afghanistan's presidential palace, President Karzai spoke of the progress that has been made since U.S. and coalition forces ousted the Taleban regime in 2001 for harboring al-Qaida terrorists.

"Mr. President, welcome to Afghanistan. We owe a great deal in this country's rebuilding, peace, democracy, the strong steps toward the future, to your support," he said.

Roughly 18,000 U.S. troops are still in Afghanistan, many of them engaged in the search for Taleban and al-Qaida leaders.

Mr. Bush says he is confident al-Qaida's chief, Osama bin Laden, will be found.

"What's happening is we have U.S. forces on the hunt for not only bin Laden but anybody who plots and plans with bin Laden," he said.

President Bush also used his visit to reaffirm his stand on Iran's nuclear ambitions. Once again, he signaled support for a Russian compromise that would provide Iran with fuel for its nuclear power plants - fuel that would ultimately be returned to Russia. He said Iran should be allowed to develop nuclear energy for civilian use, but there must be no danger of technology being diverted for military purposes.

"Iran must not have a nuclear weapon," the president said. "The most destabilizing thing that can happen in this region and in the world is for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, and so the world is speaking with one voice."

After the news conference, the president took part in a ceremony officially opening the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. He also met with American and NATO troops stationed at Bagram Air Force Base before heading on to India.