Kabul: A defiant Afghan President Hamid Karzai defended his record on corruption in an interview broadcast on Friday, saying the issue that has damaged his reputation had been "blown out of proportion" by Western media.
In the interview, with Qatar-based Al Jazeera television, the Afghan leader said he did not depend on the good opinion of Western leaders, who had sent their troops out of self interest.
Repeatedly emphasising Afghanistan`s sovereignty, he said he would not ask for more cash from donors at a conference later this month, but would demand foreign troops stop arresting Afghans, halt night raids and work harder to end civilian deaths.
"With the international community, I don`t need to have their favour. They are here for a purpose: the fight on terror. And we are working with our purpose, which is the stability and safety of Afghanistan," he said.
"The international community, especially the West, they must respect Afghanistan and its government, and understand that we are a people, we are a country, we have a history, we have interests, we have pride, we have dignity," he said.
"Our poverty must not become a means of ridicule and insult to us."
The issue of corruption has driven a wedge between Karzai and many of the Western leaders who have nearly 110,000 troops in the country fighting a growing Taliban insurgency.
Karzai`s standing abroad has slid especially since his re-election in August, when a UN-backed probe threw out nearly a third of his votes as fake. That forced a second round, which was cancelled when Karzai`s opponent withdrew.
Karzai acknowledged that Afghanistan "like all countries" has problems with graft, but said: "The Western media has blown corruption totally out of all proportion in Afghanistan."
Much of the corruption in the country was "inflicted from abroad”, he said. "My responsibility as the Afghan President is to work on the Afghan corruption and stop it. And that we are doing to the maximum of our abilities."
"With regard to democracy, we have become a good model. We did all that democracy required. We have a Constitution. We respect it. We have elections. My first election was accused of corruption and fraud, mainly by the Western media, and we went to a second round. That`s democracy," he said.