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Afghan govt rejects US lawmaker`s corruption claim

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - 18:11

Kabul: The Afghan government on Wednesday rejected
as "unjust" allegations by a senior US lawmaker that
international aid money is being embezzled on a massive scale
by officials.

On Monday US lawmaker Nita Lowey, head of the powerful
committee in charge of the budget, blocked billions of dollars
in aid to Afghanistan, vowing not to give "one more dime"
until Kabul acts against corruption.
Lowey said she would hold hearings into allegations,
reported by US media, that senior Afghan officials have been
flying suitcases full of cash out of the troubled country.

Mohammad Omar Zakhailwal, the Afghan finance minister,
said more than USD four billion had been flown out of the
country since 2007 but the cash was from contracts with US and
NATO troops.

"In the media, particularly by this congresswoman, this
has been shown as an indication of widespread corruption in
the government," he said.
"This is not us. This is the contractors," he added.

He said that of about USD 20 billion that the
international community -- mainly US and NATO -- have poured
into Afghanistan since 2007, the Kabul administration had
control over only USD one billion.

"The remaining is contracted out directly by the donors,"
he said, adding: "How could we be involved in this?"

Zakhailwal called for an "international inquiry" into how
the Afghan government has spent donor funds -- as well as huge
sums spent by international donors.

He said military contracts involving "hundreds of
millions of dollars" were contributing to corruption in his
country, for which "the international community is blaming
us".

Afghanistan is regarded as one of the most corrupt
countries in the world, rated by Transparency International as
second only to lawless Somalia.

President Hamid Karzai pledged as he took office last
year for his second term to clean up graft, but is seen to
have done little despite intense pressure from the Western
governments keeping him in power.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - 18:11

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