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Karzai calls Clinton after criticism of U.S.

KABUL, Afghanistan — A day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai railed against the foreign presence in his country, the White House said Friday that his remarks were cause for "genuine concern" in an exchange that has undercut the political benefits this week of President Barack Obama's first visit to Afghanistan as commander in chief.

In his speech to a group of Afghan election officials in Kabul on Thursday, Karzai accused the United Nations of orchestrating electoral fraud and said foreigners were intentionally undermining his government. His remarks raised questions about whether his planned visit to Washington would proceed and prompted him to make an explanatory phone call Friday to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry also met with Karzai in Kabul "to clarify what he meant by those remarks," according to State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.

Clinton and Karzai spoke in a "cordial environment," according to Karzai's spokesman, Wahid Omar, who said the Afghan leader emphasized the need for "renewed cooperation and partnership."

Karzai's speech came four days after Obama's visit to Afghanistan. In the speech, he described at length the chaos surrounding the Aug. 20 presidential election, in which a U.N.-led commission stripped him of nearly one-third of his votes, citing fraud. He blamed the United Nations.

The accusation that the international community was behind the irregularities in the Afghan election was "preposterous," Crowley said. But White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that Karzai's scheduled May 12 visit to Washington, which the White House considers something of a reward, was still on.

Afghan politicians also jumped into the fray Friday. Abdullah Abdullah, who came in second to Karzai in the presidential election, said Karzai's erratic behavior is undermining the government's war against the Taliban and was "treason to the national interest."

Soldiers killed: Three German soldiers were killed Friday when their detachment was attacked in the northern province of Kunduz, the German Defense Ministry said.

Karzai calls Clinton after criticism of U.S. 04/02/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 2, 2010 11:29pm]
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