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Afghan President Hamid Karzai due in US for talks

Hamid Karzai
President Karzai hopes to convene a grand council of tribal leaders

Afghan President Hamid Karzai arrives in the US for talks on Monday, after recent public spats between the two sides on governance and corruption.

During his four-day visit, he is to meet US President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

The trip comes as Nato prepares for an assault in southern Kandahar province.

In April President Karzai accused the US and other Western powers of being responsible for fraud in the 2009 poll.

Widespread corruption marred presidential and provincial council elections last August, much of it blamed by monitors on Afghan election officials.

And in a recent report released ahead of Mr Karzai's visit, the US defence department said that only a quarter of the population in what it regarded as key regions in Afghanistan supported the Karzai government.

It blamed government corruption and lack of efficiency as major reasons for people's distrust of the authorities.

Insurgent strategy

But the Washington Post newspaper reported on Sunday that President Obama had ordered security officials to halt public criticism of Hamid Karzai.

An unnamed senior White House official told the Washington Post that although there had been a "rough patch" between the two sides, things were improving.

The visit also comes as officials prepare for a forthcoming "jirga", or a grand council, of tribal leaders in Afghanistan who will discuss how to promote peace.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said one of his main priorities is to persuade militants to abandon the fight against coalition forces.

Analysts say one of the key aims of the visit will be to win support for his policy of reconciliation with insurgents.

Many observers point out that an important US goal will be how to tackle corruption in government ranks in Afghanistan.

But there will also be concern about sticking to the timetable for military withdrawal. The US hopes to start pulling out troops from July 2011.

But Afghanistan has seen a marked increase in violence over the past year.



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