KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan President Hamid Karzai says that once or twice a year Iran gives his office $700,000 to $975,000 for official presidential expenses. He says the U.S. has known about the Iranian assistance for years and that Washington also gives the palace "bags of money."
Karzai's comments Monday come in response to a The New York Times report a day earlier that Iran was giving cash to the Afghan president's chief of staff, Umar Daudzai, to buy his loyalty and promote Iranian interests in Afghanistan.
The newspaper quoted unnamed sources saying the money had been used to pay Afghan lawmakers, tribal elders — even Taliban commanders.
Karzai says several nations give his office money because it lacks revenue.
About 25 people may have been killed in a NATO airstrike in southern Afghanistan on Monday, an Afghan official said.
NATO officials confirmed there had been an airstrike in Helmand province but said initial reports indicated that there were no civilian casualties.
The coalition was continuing to look into the operation, the officials said.
The head of Helmand's provincial council, Fazal Bari, said local officials had told him that 25 people had been killed but that the casualty figures could rise because many bodies were still buried in the rubble.
He said the dead were inside a mosque in Baghran district but NATO says it has no reports of a mosque being struck. Baghran is the northernmost district in Helmand, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah.
In an unrelated incident, an insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan has killed a NATO service member, the coalition said in a statement on Monday, bringing to 50 the number of coalition soldiers killed this month. The statement did not provide further details on Sunday's death.
The Afghan insurgency has traditionally been fiercest in the country's south and east, along the border with Pakistan. Most of the insurgency's top commanders are believed to be hiding in the mountainous Pakistan border area. NATO and Afghan troops have been trying to wrest back control of the southern provinces from the Taliban since July, but attacks and roadside bombs are still daily occurrences.
NATO has also been trying to kill or capture Taliban leaders in airstrikes and in joint ground operations with the Afghan army.
Residents say the push has resulted in patches of security in the south, but the insurgency has stepped up attacks in other parts of the country, including the north, which has traditionally been more stable.
In northern Afghanistan Monday, a suicide attacker blew up his explosives-laden car in Pul-e-Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province, said Mahmood Akmal, a spokesman for the provincial governor.
The attacker died, but no one else was injured in the blast, which appeared to be targeting a coalition convoy, he said.
On Saturday, four suicide attackers used a car bomb, explosives vests and guns to attack a U.N. compound in the western province of Herat. The four attackers were the only fatalities.
Associated Press Writer Mirwais Khan in Kandahar, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.
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