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KARZAI DECRIES FOREIGN INTERFERENCE IN AFGHANISTAN'S DOMESTIC AFFAIRS

By NBF News
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AFGHAN President Hamid Karzai has called on foreign powers to stop interfering in the country's internal affairs and the implementation of its laws and constitution.

Karzai's comments yesterday came on the day Afghanistan commemorated the constitution's seventh anniversary. The president did not elaborate or provide details, but he has in the past complained of international interference and heavy handedness in Afghanistan's political affairs.

The United States in particular has pressed him to crack down on corruption in his government and has at times threatened to withhold millions of dollars in aid.

Meanwhile, a bomb blast in the Afghan capital, Kabul, yesterday killed a police officer and wounded three other people.

The blast, a rarity in Kabul, according to The Associated Press (AP), served as a grim reminder of insurgents' ability to strike at will across the country.  It was a jarring preamble to the scheduled departure of members of a government-appointed peace delegation to Pakistan, where they would meet with Pakistani officials and discuss efforts to launch talks with Taliban rebels.

The early morning attack in downtown Kabul took place in an area where several government buildings stand, including the finance and defence ministries, said Abdul Saboor, an official with the interior ministry's counter-terrorism unit. He said two police officers and a civilian were wounded.

The bomb went off as the police officer approached the device to defuse it, Saboor said.

Associated Press' television footage showed the bomb ripped a meter-high hole in the side of a brick building where it had been placed.

Unlike other parts of the country where the insurgents are more active, Kabul has been spared the worst of the violence that has gripped many parts of Afghanistan. The last major attack in the capital took place on December 19, when two insurgents strapped with explosives ambushed a bus carrying Afghan soldiers, leaving at least five dead and nine wounded.  The attack was claimed by Taliban.

The bombing appeared to be a symbolic strike against the government.

The Taliban had ruled Afghanistan for five years with a strict interpretation of Islamic law until it was ousted in 2001 by a U.S.-led invasion. It later became the main insurgent group fighting the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.

Karzai has repeatedly pushed to bring the insurgents into the political mainstream if they accept the country's constitution and repudiate al-Qaeda. Insurgents have so far rebuffed the efforts.

Much of the insurgency's leadership is believed to be hiding in Pakistan, and Afghan and NATO officials argue that the ability to secure Afghanistan hinges in large part on Pakistan's willingness to crack down on militants who use its territory as a staging ground for attacks.

The High Peace Council delegation is also expected to meet with Pakistan's president and prime minister.