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Karzai Remarks Ratchet Up Tensions With Washington

Remarks by Afghan President Hamid Karzai continue to cause tensions with the United States.

The U.S. State Department has reacted to comments Karzai is alleged to have made to Afghan lawmakers, threatening to join the Taliban insurgency if he continued to receive pressure from Western backers to overhaul his government.

"I'm going to take a cautious approach here. I can't explain what he said about the Taliban. He is the elected leader of Afghanistan, we are working closely with him and his government, [and] ultimately, as I said last week, this is not about the relationship between President Karzai and the United States. This is about the relationship between President Karzai, his government, and his people. Ultimately, he has to demonstrate leadership and effectiveness to his people," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.

Meanwhile, Karzai has refused to back down from comments he made last week alleging foreigners had bribed and threatened election workers to carry out fraud in last year's presidential election.

In an interview with BBC television, Karzai said what he had said about the election "was all true," and suggested the United States was behind the fraud.

On April 2, Karzai phoned U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ease tensions sparked by the comments.

But White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that since that phone call "it obviously didn't get any better."

Gibbs also expressed frustration "on behalf of the American people" over Karzai's remarks, and invoked the sacrifice made by families who send loved ones off to Afghanistan to fight.

compiled from agency reports