Karzai: Afghan corruption "blown out of proportion"

Fri Jan 8, 2010 8:24am GMT

By Peter Graff

KABUL (Reuters) - A defiant Afghan President Hamid Karzai defended his record on corruption in an interview broadcast on Friday, saying the issue that has damaged his reputation had been "blown out of proportion" by Western media.

In the interview, with Qatar-based Al Jazeera television, the Afghan leader said he did not depend on the good opinion of Western leaders, who had sent their troops out of self interest.

Repeatedly emphasising Afghanistan's sovereignty, he said he would not ask for more cash from donors at a conference later this month, but would demand foreign troops stop arresting Afghans, halt night raids and work harder to end civilian deaths.

"With the international community, I don't need to have their favour. They are here for a purpose: the fight on terror. And we are working with our purpose, which is the stability and safety of Afghanistan," he said.

"The international community, especially the West, they must respect Afghanistan and its government, and understand that we are a people, we are a country, we have a history, we have interests, we have pride, we have dignity," he said.

"Our poverty must not become a means of ridicule and insult to us."

The issue of corruption has driven a wedge between Karzai and many of the Western leaders who have nearly 110,000 troops in the country fighting a growing Taliban insurgency.

Karzai's standing abroad has slid especially since his re-election in August, when a U.N.-backed probe threw out nearly a third of his votes as fake. That forced a second round, which was cancelled when Karzai's opponent withdrew.   Continued...

<p>Afghan President Hamid Karzai gestures during a news conference with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, December 8, 2009. REUTERS/Justin Sullivan/Pool</p>
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