US concern as Karzai defends receiving Iran cash

The US said it "remains skeptical of Iran`s motives" in providing money to Afghan.

Washington: The United States said it
"remains skeptical of Iran`s motives" in providing money to
Afghanistan.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters
that Washington did not question Iran`s right to provide aid
to Afghanistan, nor Afghanistan`s right to receive it.

"What we think is important is Afghans having the ability
to shape their own future without negative influences from its
neighbours," he said.

Crowley added that it is up to the Afghan government to
explain how it spends the money it receives from other
countries.

"But we remain skeptical of Iran`s motives, given its
history of playing a destabilising role with its neighbours,"
he said.

In Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai admitted
yesterday that his chief of staff had received "bags of money"
from Iran but insisted the payment was transparent and a form
of aid from a friendly country.

The New York Times reported Saturday that Karzai`s chief
of staff, Umar Daudzai, received regular cash payments from
Iran.

When asked if the United States feared influence
peddling, Crowley replied that "we would hope that that money
would be used for the kind of constructive institution
building" in which the international community is engaged.

"It is something that we have talked to the Afghan
government about," Crowley said.

He also said that Washington has at times given Kabul aid
in "the form of cash," but much of the aid is "now provided
electronically" through "carefully vetted" financial
institutions.

Crowley said that the US government has "strong systems
of accountability in place" to ensure the money is used for
the benefit of the Afghan people.

He added that the massive flow of international aid to
Afghanistan has "added to the challenge of corruption" in that
country as Washington tries to strengthen what he called weak
Afghan institutions of government.

A senior State Department official conceded that the
image of Kabul receiving bags of money from Tehran was not a
good one. "No question. These are not great optics," the
official told reporters on the condition of anonymity.

PTI

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