KABUL – Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry said Saturday that the top U.N. official in the country went beyond his authority by giving instructions on how to rid the government of corruption and warlords.
Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide "delivered comments which exceeded international norms and his authority as a representative of an impartial organization," the ministry said in a statement.
It was strongest indication yet that the administration of President Hamid Karzai will resist prescriptions from the international community on how to rein in corruption or regional power brokers who often wield more power than the government.
A host of international figures, including President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, have called for the Afghan government to take concrete steps to clean up the government following a presidential election that was marred by fraud.
The vote took two and a half months to resolve because of ballot-box stuffing and the unwillingness of Karzai and election officials he appointed to accept results that would have forced him into a runoff vote. The second round was canceled after his challenger dropped out.
Eide warned Thursday that the Afghan government should not assume that it will have the support of international donors and troops if it continues to be mired in corruption and welcome warlords into the administration.
"We can't afford any longer a situation where warlords and power brokers play their own games," Eide said. "We have to have a political landscape here that draws the country in the same direction, which is in the direction of significant reform."
He said the partnership between Afghanistan and its foreign allies was at a "critical juncture," suggesting that the international community could desert Afghanistan unless serious action is taken.
The Foreign Ministry condemned such comments as interfering in national sovereignty.
"Over the last few days some political and diplomatic circles and propaganda agencies of certain foreign countries have intervened in Afghanistan's internal affairs by issuing instructions concerning the composition of Afghan government organs and political policy of Afghanistan," the statement said. "Such instructions have violated respect for Afghanistan's national sovereignty."
Karzai promised in his first speech after being declared the victor of the recent election that he would work to eliminate corruption, but did not give any specific proposals.
In his speech, Eide said Karzai's collection of advisers and ministers "should be composed of competent, reform-oriented personalities that can implement a reform agenda." He also outlined a process for keeping fraud out of upcoming parliamentary elections, and called for stronger judicial system reforms.
A spokesman for Karzai, Humayun Hamidzada, responded soon after Eide spoke that the president plans to fight corruption but does not yet have a detailed plan. As for the warlords, Hamidzada argued that Karzai has strengthened Afghanistan by including even his opponents in his government. He did not say then that Eide's remarks were out of line.
Eide's comments were one of many reproaches in recent days for Karzai.
During a telephone call Nov. 2 to congratulate Karzai on his re-election, Obama said he told the Afghan leader that any assurances of reform had to be backed up with action. "The proof is not going to be in words. It's going to be in deeds," Obama said.
A day later, Brown said Karzai should "make clear that he is going to take immediate action on corruption." The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, told reporters that the Karzai government needs to start writing a new chapter for Afghanistan that should include a "much more serious effort to eradicate corruption."
The U.N. Security Council joined calls for reform Friday, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calling the country's political situation "delicate" following deeply flawed elections.