Karzai seeks U.N. clarity on Ashdown’s Afghan role

KABUL – Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said British politician Paddy Ashdown cannot become U.N. envoy to Afghanistan unless the world body clarifies his role, state newspapers said on Monday.

A Western source close to talks over the post said last week Ashdown, the former U.N. High Representative and EU special envoy for Bosnia, had agreed with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to be his special envoy for Afghanistan.

The United States wants Ashdown to have greater powers than previous U.N. envoys to coordinate with Karzai’s government, the European Union and NATO which commands some 42,000 troops fighting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, Western sources said.

Karzai is wary that a powerful ‘super-envoy’, particularly one from former colonial power Britain, might make his government look weaker than it already is, diplomats say.

There was “some vagueness” about Ashdown’s role, the Kabul Times state newspaper quoted Karzai as telling a cabinet meeting on Sunday, and unless the U.N. cleared it up, Ashdown could not begin his job.

“The administration is trying to resolve the issue with U.N. consent,” it quoted the president as saying.

Using the words such as ‘super-envoy’ will cause indignation among the Afghan people and create difficulties in the coordination and cooperation between the government and the international community, another state-controlled daily said.

“Ashdown should know that he is only the coordinator of U.N. programs in Afghanistan. He is void of competence to determine our policy,” the Anis newspaper said.

The growing Taliban insurgency is benefiting from discontent over the slow pace of development in Afghanistan resulting from poor coordination between U.N. agencies, the 39-nation NATO-led military force, dozens of non-governmental organizations and the Afghan government, analysts say.

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