Karzai vows to tackle corruption

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has promised to establish an inclusive government that will banish the corruption that undermined his previous administration.

Afghan president says his government needs people from 'all parts of the country'

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has promised to establish an inclusive government that will banish the corruption that undermined his previous administration.

Afghanistan "has a bad name from corruption," the president said. "We will do our best through all possible means to eliminate this dark stain from our clothes."

Karzai delivered a speech in Kabul on Tuesday after he was declared victor of his country's presidential election by the Independent Election Commission.

Karzai effectively secured a second term when his only contender, Abdullah Abdullah, dropped out of the run-off election on Sunday, alleging the Nov. 7 vote wouldn't have been transparent or fair. The election commission cancelled the run-off on Monday.

Karzai has been told by several Western leaders and the UN that he must do more to tackle corruption in the government. But the president has contended that cannot be accomplished by just shuffling officials from his cabinet.

The problem of corruption was not certain officials, but inadequate laws and enforcement, Karzai said.

"We need to review the law where we have problems, and draft what is needed," he said, adding that an anti-corruption commission created a year ago should also be strengthened.

Will reach out to opponents

Karzai said he will reach out to opponents, but did not specifically name Abdullah in his speech. Abdullah, once Karzai's foreign minister, has said he will not join Karzai's administration, but will work from the outside for reforms and national unity.

Even so, people close to Karzai and Abdullah say they spent the past few days negotiating privately about ministry seats or accommodating Abdullah's platform in some way. The U.S. and its allies have also pressured Karzai to institute reforms and reach out to the Abdullah camp.

The president said he wants people from every part of the country in his government, including Taliban who are ready to co-operate with the administration and political opponents.

"Those who want to work with me are most welcome, regardless of whether they opposed me in the election or whether they supported me...," Karzai said.

Karzai did not spell out how he would institute reforms, nor mention whether he is willing to make concessions to his opponents.

Karzai did say that he needs international support and does not want to squander the goodwill of those supplying thousands of troops and funds to Afghanistan.

Afghans skeptical

Many Afghans are skeptical about the future of the war-torn country under Karzai's second mandate.

"Karzai had to ask for support from warlords and drug lords in exchange for future government posts, otherwise he would have lost," shopkeeper Rahim Agha told Reuters. "There is little hope to believe that Karzai will do something different to benefit the lives of ordinary Afghans."

An investigation by the UN-backed election panel last month invalidated ballots from thousands of polling stations in the first round of voting due to fraud characterized by rampant ballot-box stuffing. The elimination of the ballots dropped Karzai below the 50 per cent threshold needed to avoid a second round of voting.

The presidential election was seen as crucial to strengthening the credibility of the Afghan government in the eyes of its citizens and allies.

"Karzai won the first round through cheating; that's a victory for those who supported him, not all the people of Afghanistan," teacher Fatima Noori told Reuters.

With files from The Associated Press