The Obama administration voiced fresh concern Monday about a series of critical statements that Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has made about the West and America's role in his wartorn country.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said reports Karzai threatened in a private meeting with lawmakers to abandon the political process and join the Taliban insurgency if he continued to receive pressure from Western backers to reform his government are troubling.
"On behalf of the American people, we're frustrated with the remarks," Gibbs told reporters.
Karzai's comments are the latest in a string of statements by the Afghan leader that have concerned U.S. officials. On Thursday, Karzai lashed out against the U.N. and the international community, accusing them of perpetrating a "vast fraud" in last year's presidential polls as part of a conspiracy to deny him re-election or tarnish his victory, accusations the U.S. has denied.
"The substance of the remarks are obviously not true," Gibbs said.
Afghan lawmakers speaking on condition of anonymity said Karzai on Saturday dismissed concerns over damage to relations with the United States, and said he had clarified things in a telephone conversation with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Karzai's comments came just days after President Barack Obama made a surprise, six-hour visit to Afghanistan last week, meeting with the Afghan president and other officials, and reportedly telling them in clear terms that they must step up progress in reducing government corruption. A planned meeting between Obama and Karzai in Washington on May 12 is still scheduled, Gibbs said.
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