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Karzai speaks at last – but on trees, not politics

KABUL: Afghan President Hamid Karzai kept silence through days of political turmoil sparked by his decision to delay opening parliament, then spoke out on Monday — to condemn foreign troops for chopping down trees.

afghan speakerKarzai’s reputation already badly dented at home and abroad, fell further last week when he ordered a month’s delay to the inauguration of a new parliament elected over four months ago. His move sparked fury among lawmakers and worry among the foreign nations that helped fund the election.

Marathon last-minute talks secured a compromise deal to open parliament on Wednesday, but none of the information about the deal or subsequent disputes came from the president himself.

Karzai stayed away from microphones and his spokesmen did not answer their phones over three days of talks.

Statements from the Afghan leader have in the past ranged from the ambiguous to the bizarre, but his office still caught diplomats and journalists — waiting for any word on the crisis — by surprise on Monday afternoon.

“The President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan strongly condemns the cutting of trees by coalition forces in Band-e-Sardah district of Ghazni province,” a news release from Karzai’s palace read.

It cited reports that foreign troops felled up to 4,000 trees, but made no mention of the political chaos, or parliament.

“The President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan …urged international forces not to repeat such acts, which are a crime against the wealth of the nation,” it added.

Several hours later, Karzai did finally confirm Wednesday’s inauguration plans in a statement, but his earlier digression was likely to provide fuel to critics who say he did not throw himself into resolving the parliamentary turmoil. – Reuters

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