President warns allies to stay away from Afghan internal affairs

President Hamid Karzai said Wednesday that Afghanistan was no puppet state and warned the international community to stay away from its internal affairs as the country faces a political crisis due to a postponement of presidential polls, reported dpa.

"The Afghan nation is now the owner of its soil and no one can interfere in that," Karzai told reporters in a joint press conference with visiting NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

Neither would Afghanistan be allowed to become a tribal state nor a "puppet," Karzai said.

"Afghanistan is not like the rind of a melon fallen on the ground so anyone can pick it up and do whatever one wants," he said.

Karzai, who has ruled the country since the ouster of the Taliban regime in late 2001, has been under fire from the international community for his inefficiency to tackle corruption and the drug trade.

Some officials in US President Barack Obama's administration have suggested focusing their support on local and provincial governments to reverse the country's downward spiral after finding the central government unable to extend its writ beyond major cities.

The international community was welcome to help fighting terrorism and for reconstruction, but Afghanistan's government was the "the job of the Afghan people."

"Afghanistan should be treated with honor and respect and Afghanistan will treat its international partners and friends in that respectful way," he said.

Karzai is under pressure from political opponents and parts of the international community to respect the constitution and hand over government to a provisional administration after his term expires in two months.

The Afghan election commission postponed the presidential polls from spring to August 20, because of bad weather, bad security in some parts of the country and logistical problems.

According to the constitution, Karzai's five-year-term ends on May 22 and a number of political parties have warned that they would not recognize him as a legitimate president after that point, a move designed to lead the country into political crisis.

"We are interested in continuity, stability and legitimacy in the period between the formal end of President Karzai's mandate on May 22 until August 20," Scheffer told reporters in a separate press briefing.

"But I add hastily that this is not something for the international community to intervene or to involve itself. This is a question for the Afghan body politics, for the president, for the government, and for the parliament, but it is important to see continuity and legitimacy," he said.

While Afghanistan expects more Taliban-led violence during spring and summer - the traditional fighting seasons - the question who should rule after May remains a top challenge for the young democracy.

Analysts believe that it would be in the interest of NATO countries to stay clear of internal politics and let Afghan politicians find a solution for the upcoming crisis.

"I believe it will be good for the NATO countries to limit their role in this political crisis to giving advice, but if they directly interfere, the Afghan public will see them as invaders," said Ahmad Jawid, an Afghan journalist and political analyst.

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