By Candice Hughes
ROME — The 87-year-old ex-king of Afghanistan called on his people Wednesday to "rescue themselves" by renouncing terrorism.
The United States is pressing Afghanistan to hand over Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the terror attacks last week in New York and Washington, and warned it could face military retaliation if it refuses.
"My concerns and anxieties for the future of Afghanistan have increased in these precarious moments," former King Mohammed Zahir Shah said in a statement.
"I appeal to the Afghan people and to their sense of honor and patriotism to rescue ourselves from this dangerous situation," he said.
He urged his country to "acknowledge with regret that the presence of foreign, imposed terrorists has causes unrest and danger" for Afghanistan. Bin Laden is a Saudi-born exile living in Afghanistan.
"Historically our nation has acted in accordance to the guidance and tenets of Islam, embraced moderation and tolerance, opposed terrorism," he said.
An aide said Zahir’s message was recorded and broadcast inside Afghanistan but provided no details. An English translation was provided to The Associated Press in Rome, where Zahir has lived since his 1973 overthrow.
His 40-year reign ended in 1973 with a coup by his nephew, which opened Afghanistan to three decades of conflict that have left it devastated.
The former king lives surrounded by aides and advisers and is rarely seen in public. His last appearance was in January at an assembly of Afghan exiles — loyalists in robes, turbans and fezzes and in European-cut suits dreaming of someday convening a traditional Grand Assembly of Afghan leaders in Kabul, the capital.
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