Afghan leader Hamid Karzai may go to Italy to accompany the country's former king when he returns to his homeland in March, an aide to the king said Sunday.

Mohammad Zaher Shah, who hasn't been to Afghanistan since his 1973 ouster, wants to be back home by March 21, in time for a spring holiday that was banned under the hard-line Taliban regime, aide Zalmai Rassoul said.

He said Karzai, who has frequently visited the 87-year-old monarch at his home on the outskirts of Rome, may accompany him.

"It's not confirmed but this is a possibility," he said.

Karzai last visited the king's gated compound on Dec. 18, days before he took office.

Zaher Shah, who is viewed as a symbolic and unifying figure among the country's various ethnic groups, gave Karzai his blessings as well as a personal copy of the Quran, the Muslim holy book.

While in Afghanistan, Zaher Shah is to convene a grand national assembly, or loya jirga, which is to choose a transitional government to rule Afghanistan during the 18 months before elections. The loya jirga must be called before an interim government's six-month mandate expires in June.

It still hasn't been decided where Zaher Shah will stay while in Afghanistan, Rassoul said. The king has lived in relative calm and comfort during his three-decade exile in Rome.

During critical turning points in Afghanistan's recent history, such as the Soviet pullout, the king was approached about going home. Each time he hesitated and the chance was lost.

His aides have said he is fully committed to going home this time to help guide Afghanistan's political future following the ouster of the Taliban leadership.