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Richard Holbrooke – exclusive interview

Holbrooke denies Karzai flame-up, justifies Afghan election process

Article published on the 2009-09-01 Latest update 2009-09-02 08:06 TU

Karzai (R) shakes hand with Holbrooke(Photo: Reuters)

Karzai (R) shakes hand with Holbrooke
(Photo: Reuters)

On his return from Afghanistan, US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke talked to RFI about the US role in Afghan elections, his reportedly difficult meetings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and the fallout from fraud and ballot-stuffing allegations.

Holbrooke spent the weekend in Afghanistan where he visited the four regional Nato commands in Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif and Bagram.

He met will all the candidates as well as local leaders and officials and says he remains confident that the election will be resolved in a timely manner.

“All we want is that the process be fair and reflect the will of the people,” Holbrooke told RFI.

Interview: Richard Holbrooke, US Special Envoy to Afghanistan

01/09/2009 by William Niba

Multiple reports of irregularities in the 20 August election have been surfacing, and the Afghan electoral commission has stated that it will be launching investigations shortly.

“It’s a normal part of an election process,” Holbrooke said in an interview conducted during a stop-over in Paris. “The important thing is that if people have disagreements over elections – and this happens in the United States and France all the time – these problems need to be worked out peacefully in accordance with the laws and regulations of Afghanistan.”

The special envoy went out of his way to restate that the United States did not play a role behind the scenes before or during the election, as has been asserted in some quarters.

“The United States totally respects the process. We don’t have a candidate,” Holbrooke said. “The United States did not take a position in favour of a run-off …We took a position in favour of the process. We took a position in favour of the people of Afghanistan.”

 “The United States and the international community will work with whoever is elected president of Afghanistan. And if that’s President Karzai re-elected, that’s fine. I know him well; I admire his achievements as the leader of Afghanistan.”

Regarding reports of a difficult meeting with President Karzai, Holbrooke was unequivocal: they are false.

“This is a rather fanciful account of one of two meetings I had with President Karzai,” he said. “We discussed the future; we discussed the elections and we discussed the relationships. It was very amicable and correct. There was no shouting and nobody walked out.”

He thinks that the media coverage of the election has been overwhelmingly negative considering the difficulties facing the country.

“Holding the first contested elections in Afghanistan’s history, in these conditions, where the Taliban said they were going to disrupt the elections, is pretty complicated. It’s difficult,” Holbrooke said. “But if you look at what the Taliban did on August 20th, you’ll see that they weren’t very successful.”

“They may have depressed the vote in certain areas – we all expected that ... but they didn’t prevent the election.”

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