‘Karzai widened divide between US, Afghanistan by condemning Koran burning issue’

Kabul, Apr 6: Afghan President Hamid Karazi's act of condemning US Reverend Terry Jones over his role in the little known Koran burning incident led to the widespread violence in the war ravaged country, indicating the prevalence of the divide between the two nations, U.S. and other Western officials in Afghanistan have said.

The Washington Post quoted them as saying that Karzai played a more damaging role by issuing a statement condemning Jones four days after the little known incident, which eventually raised awareness in the country, and provoked the Afghan people against the United States.

Following Karzai's condemnation, a NATO official in Kabul had reportedly said: "You knew that this could really be bad."

The episode has revealed again the divide between Karzai and the West, a sense of mistrust that poses a serious challenge to success in Afghanistan, the paper added.

A Western diplomat said that Karzai's condemning statement was "like an amazing sense of his willingness just to humiliate," the West, adding: "It's not that he would like to confront the issue in partnership but just to retaliate through humiliation, like someone owes him something."

Meanwhile, Karzai's aides have said that on the second day of last week's deadly riots in Kandahar following the Koran burning episode, Karzai had called up a mullah saying he had condemned the incident in the strongest terms, Karzai's aides have said.

One of the aides said that the Afghan President had told Maulvi Habibullah, a Kandahar imam and a leader of the protests, that he condemned the act of the burning of a Koran in a small Florida church on March 20, ten days earlier.

The news surprised Habibullah, who replied: "Did you really do that, Mr. President?" the aide said, adding that situation improved after the imam agreed to urge his followers to calm down.

"After the call, things got better, and people went home," he added.

Throughout the crisis, Karzai repeatedly pushed the issue, calling for Jones's prosecution, and for Congress to join in his condemnation, even though the burning of holy books is not a crime in the United States, the paper said.

The four days of violence and clashes with the police killed at least 21 people, and wounded about 150 in cities across Afghanistan.

Copyright Asian News International/DailyIndia.com