KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai said Tuesday that he'd work to curb corruption in his next five years in office, but he gave no specifics about how that would be accomplished or which Cabinet members might be fired to clean up his administration.
"We have been tarnished with corruption, and we will continue to make every possible effort to wipe off this stain," Karzai said at his first news conference since he was certified Monday as the winner of the 2009 presidential election.
The Obama administration has identified corruption in the Karzai administration as a key issue that's weakening the 8-year-old war effort against the Taliban. Karzai has had uneasy relations with the Obama administration, however, particularly as the Afghan president's campaign was accused of being involved in widespread voter fraud in recent months.
There are still plenty of doubts among Afghans and Western diplomats about Karzai's willingness to remove key political allies who may have been involved in graft or other misconduct.
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"I think the corruption and the failures in the system and the government cannot only be fixed through removal," Karzai said Tuesday. "There are rules and there are regulations and there are laws that need to be reformed."
One of the most controversial members of the Karzai government, Marshal Mohammad Fahim, was standing next to the president at the news conference. Fahim, the vice president, has been accused of war crimes and dogged by allegations that he's tied to the drug trade.
Karzai claimed a new term after his challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, dropped out of a runoff election last weekend over concerns that voter fraud also would mar the second round.
Karzai has never admitted that his campaign was involved in fraudulent activities during the first round Aug. 20, and he referred to those allegations again Tuesday as "defamation and disrespect."
He praised Abdullah as a strong candidate "whose campaigning was much better than mine," and said he wanted to form "a government of unity, a government for all Afghan people." However, he gave no specifics as to whom he might include or whether he'd back any of the reforms Abdullah sought, such as electing, rather than appointing, provincial governors.