Afghanistan lawmaker lashes out at Karzai

Times Staff And Wire Reports

The speaker of Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament, Younis Qanooni, on Saturday denounced a speech by President Hamid Karzai in which the Afghan leader blamed the West for last summer’s fraud-ridden election.

The parliament has been embroiled in a heated dispute with Karzai over conditions for parliamentary elections, sparring with him over his authority to appoint members of a fraud-auditing panel for the vote scheduled in September.

In trying to downplay Karzai’s angry speech Thursday, his aides contended that it was misconstrued.


Karzai’s attempts at damage control appeared to falter, however. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs described Karzai’s comments -- even after the Afghan leader’s conciliatory telephone conversation with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton -- as “genuinely troubling.”

During the speech, Karzai lashed out against U.S. and European officials, accusing them of perpetrating a “vast fraud” in the August presidential election as part of a conspiracy to deny him reelection.

Karzai also suggested that parliament members who threw out a presidential decree strengthening his power over the election process were serving foreign interests.

That drew a sharp rebuke Saturday from Qanooni, a former Karzai Cabinet minister who finished second in the 2004 presidential election.

“This is the house of the people and all the members have been elected,” Qanooni told parliament. “It’s not possible that we would be influenced by foreigners.”

Other lawmakers also expressed outrage over Karzai’s remarks.