Hamid Karzai's spokesman denied reports that the Afghan leader threatened to join the Taliban insurgency if he were pressured further by foreign backers, in an apparent attempt Wednesday to calm worsening tensions with Washington.
Karzai's comments, allegedly made in a meeting with lawmakers on Saturday, had been widely reported by The Associated Press and others, prompting the White House to say a planned Washington visit might be canceled if Karzai didn't stop blaming the U.S. for his problems.
However, Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar said Karzai's government had been shocked to see the comment appearing in media outlets, and did not know where it came from.
The Afghanistan government has put "fighting against terror and fighting against those who put the lives of Afghan people in danger as priority No. 1," Omar told a news conference.
"And in that context, that comment, whoever has come up with that comment, does not make sense," Omar said.
Three different Afghan lawmakers told the AP that Karzai twice threatened to join the Taliban insurgency if the U.S. continued pressuring him publicly to do more to end graft, cronyism and electoral fraud.
Karzai's ties with the U.S. have deteriorated under the Obama administration, which has demanded he do more to purge his government of abuses that are blamed for fueling the insurgency.
The U.S. leader unexpectedly flew to Kabul last week to press Karzai on the issues, possibly causing a loss of face that added to the Afghan leader's indignation when parliament refused to approve a motion giving him greater control over the country's electoral institutions.
Also Wednesday, the government announced that the controversial head of Afghanistan's official election commission has resigned ahead of parliamentary polls expected in September.
Karzai offered to extend Azizullah Lodin's term, but Lodin declined the offer, Omar told journalists.
Lodin had been Karzai's pick to head the commission, which was then accused of ignoring massive ballot stuffing and other fraud during last year's disputed presidential election. A separate independent Electoral Complaints Commission stripped Karzai of one-third of his votes due to the cheating suspicions, forcing a runoff that was aborted after his main opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, withdrew after saying there was no way a second round would be fair.
Meanwhile, a suicide attack Wednesday on a NATO convoy passing through the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad killed a civilian and wounded 15 others, officials said. One of the vehicles and several nearby shops were damaged.
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