Nato warns Afghan leader
Brussels - Nato warned President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday against undermining Afghan public support for the efforts of its forces to help bring security to his insurgency-wracked country.
"The international community, including ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), continues to make enormous effort and sacrifices in support of the Afghan people, in order to make Afghanistan inhospitable to terrorism," said Nato spokesperson James Appathurai.
"We hope and expect that that is recognised by the Afghan people, including at the highest levels," he said in a statement, after Karzai raised questions about foreign meddling in last year's fraud-marred presidential election.
ISAF numbers almost 90 000 troops drawn from 44 nations, according to Nato figures from March 5.
The force is battling to cope with a tenacious Taliban and al-Qaeda led insurgency, and recently made the protection of Afghan civilians its top priority in an effort to defeat the militants.
"We are there in partnership with the Afghan government. This partnership must not only be real, it must be seen to be real by the Afghan people and by the international community," Appathurai said.
Karzai suggested joining the Taliban
The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Karzai had told Afghan lawmakers that the US was interfering in Afghan affairs and that the Taliban would become a legitimate resistance movement if it did not stop.
The paper said that in the private meeting, the Afghan president even suggested he could join the Taliban himself, if parliament did not support his efforts to take control of the country's election commission.
His remarks - which came in the southern city of Kandahar in the Taliban heartland which ISAF aims to secure in a major operation soon - also angered and perplexed senior US and UN officials.
Karzai was declared re-elected in November by his own officials after his challenger abandoned a run-off presidential vote.
He has also been negotiating with the Taliban to try to bring them into a political settlement, ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for September.