WASHINGTON - Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in an interview airing Monday he is taking steps to root out corruption in his government, but he also said foreign money was making the problem worse.
In addition to what he called the usual corruption in any government, Karzai said he is dealing with a kind of corruption that is foreign to his country.
We also mean corruption of a different kind which is a lot more serious, which is new to Afghanistan, which is with the arrival of a lot of money to Afghanistan, Karzai said in an interview with the PBS program The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
Without providing specific examples, Karzai listed contractual mechanisms, a lack of transparency in awarding contracts and corruption in implementing projects among the new and more serious corruption problem.
The stigma falls mainly on Afghanistan because that's where it happens, and that's why we should address it first and also hopefully that our partners in the international community will also recognize problems on their side and try to correct them with us, he said in the interview taped for broadcast on Monday.
Washington has long called for a stronger and more accountable Afghan government to fight a Taliban insurgency which is at its deadliest since the Islamists were forced from power in 2001.
Since being re-elected in a controversial poll in which a fraud investigation rejected more than a million of his votes, Karzai has been under intense pressure from his Western backers to introduce swift anti-corruption reforms.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who is considering whether to send an additional 40,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown are pressing Karzai to act decisively to fight corruption.
Karzai said in the interview he already was addressing corruption in his government.
Where we have found facts on corrupt practices by senior government officials, we have acted, they have gone to prison, he said.
He urged his allies to respect Afghanistan's judicial system, but also backed a statement by his Foreign Ministry, calling on them to respect his country's sovereignty.
We like our partners to have a lot of respect for Afghan sovereignty. Afghanistan is extremely sensitive about that, Karzai said.
We must all be very careful while we are partners with one another, while we work together, while we are traveling this journey together that our partnership and our advice is a friendly one and with good intentions and not one that can be interpreted any other way, Karzai added.
On his relationship with Washington, Karzai suggested both countries needed to become better educated about the other.
In the cultural environment that both of us work in, we have to respect the American cultural sensitivities, Karzai said. And the Americans must respect the Afghan cultural sensitivities, in which we have a lot of that, by the way.
(Reporting by JoAnne Allen; editing by Philip Barbara)