Karzai will not seek third term: spokesman

AFP , Saturday 10 Dec 2011

Hamid Karzai's spokesman says the Afghani President is not planning to change the constitution and run for a third term, calming Western fears concerning the democratic transition in the country after the US invasion in 2001

Afghan President Hamid Karzai talks with journalists after visiting victims at the Emergency Hospital in Kabul, December 7, 2011. (Photo:Reuters)

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is not secretly planning to change the country's constitution to seek a third term in power, his spokesman insisted on Saturday.

Recent media reports, citing a document set out by Germany's foreign intelligence service, said Karzai was seeking special dispensation to guide the country through uncertainty after NATO ends its combat mission in 2014.

But Aimal Faizi said Karzai, the only leader in Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led invasion brought down the Taliban, was not planning to change the constitution, which allows two terms as president.

"Karzai has no intention to remain in power after his second term," Faizi told AFP.

"The president has made it very clear, including in his loya jirga speech, that he will not run again," he said, referring to a speech at a traditional gathering of elders last month.

"He has no plan to run again. He'd rather give the chance to someone new.

"We dismiss the recent media reports citing some intelligence that said President Karzai is running for a third time," Faizi said.

Karzai was sworn in as interim leader of Afghanistan in December 2001, shortly after the US-led invasion toppled the Taliban.

In 2004, he won the country's first direct presidential elections with 55.4 per cent of the vote.

But his re-election in 2009 was mired in allegations of corruption, in which challenger Abdullah Abdullah abandoned a second-round run-off and investigators threw out a third of Karzai's original votes because of fraud.

Karzai has previously also denied rumours he is planning to cling to power when his second term comes to an end in three years' time.

Some 140,000 international troops are stationed in Afghanistan but all NATO-led combat forces are due to leave by the end of 2014, when Kabul will assume full responsibility for the country's security.

While Western officials in the capital praise the transition process so far, they acknowledge that challenges remain, including Afghan government corruption, a weak state and the lack of a properly functioning justice system.

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