(Reuters) - Afghanistan and its neighbours must launch a regional campaign against terrorism in order to make the most of their natural resources and develop trade, President Hamid Karzai said on Saturday.
Karzai was addressing the final session of a conference of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), a 10-nation group which was founded by Iran, Turkey and Pakistan.
Afghanistan, where a Taliban-led insurgency -- backed by al Qaeda -- has intensified in the past two years, could serve as a bridge bringing ECO nations together, Karzai said.
"Our homelands are resourceful homelands. We have abundant resources and our people are thirsty for progress," Karzai said, adding economic development would help bring stability.
"...Terrorism, drugs...and organized crime...form our difficulties and are the main block to regional development."
He emphasized terrorism was the most serious obstacle.
"And this (development) will not be possible if we do not isolate the handful of terrorists wherever they are and organize ... a joint campaign against them."
Located on the old Silk Route, Afghanistan has rich copper and iron reserves and some precious stones.