Two Marines Killed in Afghanistan Helicopter Crash

On Saturday, Karzai met in Riyadh with King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi leaders promised "in principle to contribute to the reconstruction of Afghanistan," an Afghan diplomat told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The amount was not immediately known.

Karzai's trip to the oil-rich Gulf kingdom was widely believed to be a diplomatic sign that his administration is looking to heal the wounds of the past for a better, reconstructed future. Saudi Arabia was one of the few countries to recognize Afghanistan's ousted Taliban government, and Saudi private funds helped underwrite the hard-line Islamic regime as well as al Qaeda operations.

The kingdom also is the birthplace of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. Many Afghans believe bin Laden's global terrorist network virtually hijacked their country for five years and they hold his al Qaeda organization responsible for the powerful influence of non-Afghans in the Central Asian state during the Taliban years.

Empty Coffers

More than two months after the Taliban was ousted from power, Karzai's administration is badly strapped for cash and most government employees have not been paid in months while basic services, such as telephone and transportation, are in tatters after two decades of civil war.

After his visit to Saudi Arabia, Karzai will attend an international donors' conference in Tokyo beginning on Jan. 21, where representatives of nearly 60 governments as well as international organizations are expected to pledge reconstruction aid and set economic policy terms for his administration.

After the conference, Karzai will pay an official visit to China, a key player in the region.

And on Jan. 28, Karzai is expected to meet with President Bush during a trip to the United States, where he will also attend the World Economic Forum in New York.

Report: Saudi Wants U.S. Troops Out

In other developments:

Amid speculation that the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks may have died, the commander of the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan told a press briefing Friday that America eventually would get Osama bin Laden. "I honesty don't know where he is," said Gen. Tommy Franks, head of U.S. Central Command. "But I'll tell you this: The world is not a large enough place for him to hide in." Franks said the focus of U.S. troops in Afghanistan remains on gathering intelligence from al Qaeda caves and complexes and searching for remaining Taliban and al Qaeda soldiers.

A federal judge in Alexandria, Va., ruled that television cameras and audio coverage will not be allowed in the trial of alleged Sept. 11 attack conspiractor Zacarias Moussaoui. See Story

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