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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 January 2008, 23:22 GMT
Kabul against Ashdown envoy role
Lord Paddy Ashdown, file picture from 20 September 2005
Lord Ashdown served as the UN's High Representative for Bosnia
Afghanistan has made it clear it does not want Paddy Ashdown to be the new United Nations envoy to the country.

The British peer served as the UN's High Representative and EU envoy to Bosnia from 2002 to 2005.

The Afghan ambassador to the UN told the BBC that while Lord Ashdown was held in high regard, he was not Kabul's preferred candidate.

Zahir Tanin said Afghanistan's choice would be General John McColl, Nato's deputy commander in Europe.

The British general served as the first head of the international security force in Afghanistan in 2002.

Mr Tanin said the Afghan government had been surprised to see Lord Ashdown being portrayed in the British media as the final choice for the post.

Lord Ashdown has not commented on the Afghan remarks.

'Negative atmosphere'

It was about thinking who is going to be more helpful
Afghan Ambassador to the UN Zahir Tanin

"A negative atmosphere was generated through the media inside and outside Afghanistan, particularly in Britain, which hit a lot of nerves and paved the way for misunderstanding and concerns," Mr Tanin told the BBC.

He said Afghanistan's new preferred candidate was "another British respected figure, General McColl".

"It was about thinking who is going to be more helpful and who is going to be more able to work with the Afghan government and with different elements of the international community in Afghanistan," said Mr Tanin.

Strained relations

The dispute over the appointment comes at a time of strained relations between Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai and the West, says the BBC's diplomatic correspondent, James Robbins.

He says that although the UN, which will ultimately make the appointment, has not commented, the disagreement is an important symptom of far wider tensions between President Karzai and Britain.

The Afghan leader has recently criticised the performance of British troops fighting the Taliban in the restive Helmand Province.

He apparently sees Lord Ashdown as too strong a figure, who could look like a rival, our correspondent says.

Meanwhile, there is unease in London and Washington about the president's political authority, with the hope being that Lord Ashdown could help bolster the entire international effort in Afghanistan.



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