Karzai asks foreign troops to respect Afghan laws, culture (Roundup)

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Dec 18, 2008, 14:20 GMT

Kabul - Unnecessary detentions and house-searches of Afghan people will only damage the legitimacy of the government, Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned Thursday, as he called on NATO-led international forces to respect the country's laws and culture.

'Entering by force our people's houses is against the government of Afghanistan,' Karzai told a gathering of Afghan government officials and foreign diplomats in Kabul.

The president said his repeated demands to the nearly 70,000 NATO and US-led troops to put an end to house searches and detentions had yet to yield results.

'The unilateral action of them (foreign forces) is an obstacle for applying the rule of law in Afghanistan,' Karzai said. 'This way the Afghan government will be destroyed and it will never be strengthened when in my country, the foreign soldiers go and arrest people, hit them and even kill them.'

The international forces, deployed after the ouster of the Taliban regime in late 2001, have been pre-emptively targeting Afghan villagers' houses in the southern and eastern provinces in search of suspected insurgents and those who supply them with weapons.

In the latest incident, the US-led coalition said its forces killed three militants and arrested five in an operation in the southeastern province of Khost on Tuesday. But Afghan officials said that those killed were civilians.

Referring to this, Karzai said: 'The foreign forces went to a house in Khost province and martyred the man, his wife, and his son and arrested several others.'

Karzai, who was talking to officials in a ceremony marking the International Anti-Corruption Day, added: 'How can the people of Afghanistan trust their government if their government cannot protect them?'

Karzai is under fire from the international community for being unable to root out the rampant corruption in his administration, which they say has disillusioned the Afghan public.

'It is true that there is administrative corruption in Afghanistan in its government, in its economy, in its politics, and in its media. It is a very troubling reality,' the president said.

But he assured that his government has become more determined recently to eliminate endemic corruption. In the past two months he had sacked four senior officials, including a cabinet minister and a provincial governor, for their involvement in corruption.

He did not identify the sacked officials, nor did he give details about the accusations. Recently the minister for transportation and the governor of the southern province Kandahar were sacked for unknown reasons.

In a clear sign of mounting frustration with Karzai's government, Afghan MPs stripped Mohammad Amin Farhang, the commerce minister, of his duties for failing to control the oil price.

Despite international oil prices dropping three times this month compared with prices in July, prices in Afghanistan have fallen by only 15 per cent.

During impeachment on Thursday, all but 127 parliamentarians voted against Farhang, Mohammad Younus Qanooni, speaker for lower house of parliament announced in a live telecast. Only one lawmaker voted for the commerce minister to stay in his post.

Western diplomats and UN officials criticize Karzai's inability to tackle corruption and say that it has undermined the international community's efforts to bring peace and develop governance in Afghanistan.

In return, Karzai lays the blame on international troops' actions in his country. 'How can this government eliminate corruption when it cannot protect its citizens, or stop unilateral detention of people by foreign forces?'

Unless foreign forces respect Afghanistan's laws, culture and the lives of the Afghan people, governing will remain difficult, Karzai said. 'No matter if billions of dollars are spent, if they don't stop these actions, this government would not be strengthened, there is no way.'