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Updated: October 26, 2010 01:55 IST

Karzai admission about Iranian cash

Jon Boone
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FRANK ADMISSION: Afghan President Hamid Karzai's statement on Iran's role clears up a long-standing mystery. Photo: AFP
FRANK ADMISSION: Afghan President Hamid Karzai's statement on Iran's role clears up a long-standing mystery. Photo: AFP

It is used to pay for his office expenses, just as the U.S. funds other offices.

Hamid Karzai has admitted that his chief of staff collects “bags of money” worth hundreds of thousands of euros from the Iranian government each year.

The Afghan President told a press conference that the cash was used to pay his office expenses and that he was happy to take large sums from the main regional enemy of the U.S., Afghanistan's most important ally.

“This is nothing hidden,” Karzai said. “We are grateful for Iranian help in this regard. The United States is doing the same thing. They're providing cash to some of our offices.” He said once or twice a year Iran provided as much as €7,00,000 (£6,25,000) and that money was handed by Umar Daudzai, the powerful chief of staff who is known for his anti-western views.

The New York Times reported on October 24 that at the end of an official visit by Karzai to Iran Daudzai was handed bags of cash by an Iranian official as he waited to board the presidential plane.

Karzai's frank admission of Iran's role at the heart of the Afghan administration clears up a long-standing mystery surrounding the funding of his office. It had long been assumed Karzai had access to a sizeable slush fund because of his habit of disbursing money, cars and other gifts to political allies and others considered worthy of rewards.

Iran has long sought influence inside Afghanistan, particularly in areas bordering its own territory. Karzai has caused embarrassment in Washington in the past by inviting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Kabul where the Iranian president launched a public tirade against U.S. policy and called for American troops to withdraw.

Karzai insisted, however, that there was nothing untoward about the Iranian payments. “They want good relations in return. Lots of other things in return, Afghanistan and Iran have neighbourly relations,” he said.

“We have also asked lots of things in return in this relationship, so it's a relationship between neighbours and it will go on and we'll continue to ask for cash help from Iran.” During his press conference, held with Emomali Rahmon, the president of neighbouring Tajikistan, he insisted on the closure of all private security companies, which he said were responsible for “the deaths of Afghan children, and they cause blasts and terrorism”.

In principle the international community supports the surprise decree, first issued in August, that all such companies be disbanded by the end of the year, but it is worried Karzai is rushing and many reconstruction projects left without security will be forced to wind down. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

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