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Karzai protests US diplomat's presence at rival's meeting

world Updated: Jun 27, 2009 19:38 IST

Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed concern on Saturday over the presence of a US diplomat at a press meet of a key rival in the country's upcoming August elections, saying it amounted to interference in the electoral process.

Karzai described as "a sensitive issue" the presence of Karl Eikenberry, US ambassador to Afghanistan, earlier this month at a press conference at which former foreign minister and presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah announced his platform of decentralising the government.

The election is an internal affair and foreigners should not interfere in it "especially where change of the government system is being discussed," Karzai told reporters in the presidential palace.

Abdullah has suggested that should he be elected, he would introduce a federal system of government under which local governors would have greater authority.

Earlier, Karzai's spokesman Humayoon Hamidzada criticised the US ambassador for meeting rival candidates, calling this "direct interference".

Karzai, however, said he did not object to candidates meeting foreign diplomats as long as they did not discuss or announce their platforms at such meetings.

Karzai is standing for a second term in the Aug 20 elections, the second-ever presidential ballot in the history of Afghanistan.

Karzai also called on the Islamist extremist Taliban to take part in the elections and vote for their favourite candidate.

The incumbent president told reporters that he called on "our Taliban brothers and all other Afghans who are not in Afghanistan for various reasons and are standing in opposition ... to renounce violence not only on the election day but forever".

"It is also my request that they should come to their land ... register and take part in the elections," he said.

The former ruling Taliban have stepped up attacks ahead of the elections and vowed to disrupt the election, calling it "a deceptive game for legalising the occupation".