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    Karzai vows fair vote, seeks US support

    KABUL (PAN): President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday sought strong cooperation from the US-led international community in fighting the scourge of corruption within his administration.

    During a meeting at the Presidential Palace, Karzai and Robert Bob Menendez, chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, discussed Afghan-US strategic partnership, the peace process, fight against corruption and the upcoming presidential elections in Afghanistan.

    Karzai said Afghanistan needed sincere cooperation from the international community, particularly of the United States, in its fight against corruption. The president called awarding contracts to relatives of senior Afghan officials a major source of corruption, asking the United States to check the practice.

    A statement from his office quoted the president as saying that contracts awarded to senior officials’ relatives and affiliates would weaken Afghanistan’s system, hampering the anti-corruption campaign.

    Karzai described the peace drive important for Afghanistan, emphasising on sincere cooperation from Pakistan, the United States and other countries.

    With regard to the presidential elections, due in 2014, he said the Afghan government was determined to hold a free, transparent and fair vote. He also stressed noninterference from foreign countries in future elections.

    Senator Menendez noted that Afghanistan, given its enormous importance, was the first country he was visiting as chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

    Pointing to the successful talks that Karzai and Obama had in Washington, Menendez promised his country would not abandon Afghanistan and that the bilateral security agreement was in the interest of both.

    pr/mud