Karzai Sworn In Afghan President For Second Term

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday pledged he would learn from past mistakes, after he was sworn in for a second five-year term following a controversial election marred by fraud. "We have to learn from
karzai sworn in afghan president for second term...
PTI November 19, 2009 15:46 IST

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday pledged he would learn from past mistakes, after he was sworn in for a second five-year term following a controversial election marred by fraud.

"We have to learn from our mistakes and shortcomings of the last eight years," he told 800 foreign and Afghan dignitaries assembled at the presidential palace in Kabul to witness his inauguration.

Karzai said, he believed "international terrorism" in Afghanistan will be overcome.  He said that the US  will continue to be an important partner in this fight, as will bringing in former Taliban who are ready to renounce terrorism.

Karzai  said that Afghanistan's relationship with the United States continues to be friendly and said the Afghan people will never forget the sacrifices of American soldiers.

Karzai was sworn in by the head of the Supreme Court, Abdul Salam Azimi, before hundreds of guests and foreign dignitaries from more than 40 countries.

Karzai began Thursday's inauguration ceremony outside on a red carpet, reviewing members of the presidential palace's security force as a band played the Afghan national anthem.

   Karzai is under intense pressure to fix his corrupt government. He is expected to strike a balance in his second inaugural speech Thursday: answer international demands for reform while appeasing political allies who returned him to power.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday that the international community will support the embattled Afghan government, but expects it to build up the country's defense forces, boost security and improve the lives of its impoverished people.

Clinton met at the heavily fortified U.S. Embassy with foreign ministers from about a dozen nations who are in the capital to attend the inauguration of Hamid Karzai. 

She met with Karzai for about 90 minutes Wednesday night at the presidential palace.

"I think that there's a very clear understanding, on the part of not only President Karzai but his government, that results of this election have to be seen and felt in the lives of the people of Afghanistan," she said, sitting in a circle of chairs with diplomatic officials from Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Australia, Japan and a host of other nations.

Clinton  said the Karzai government understands the international community is "willing to support and encourage the next years of effort of the people and government of Afghanistan, but that we expect outcomes that deliver on security, the buildup of an Afghan national security force as well as a national police force, tangible benefits that flow to the people of Afghanistan and an accountable, transparent government _ as far as that can be obtained _ as well as a strong stand against corruption."

The meeting, hosted by U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, came before the diplomats were to leave for the palace to attend the inaugural, being held under tight security in the capital.

Clinton said in her conversations with some members of Karzai's Cabinet, she was reassured by the work that was being done in the ministries of agriculture, education, intelligence and finance. Karzai has not announced members of his new Cabinet.

Before entering the meeting, Clinton joked with reporters, telling them they needed to try Afghanistan's pomegranate juice.

"It lowers your cholesterol," she said.

Afghanistan officials hope the export of its pomegranates will raise the sweet, red fruit's cachet and provide its farmers with a lucrative alternative to growing opium, a raw ingredient in heroin. The U.S. has funded an initiative to modernize and expand Afghanistan's pomegranate industry, which has long depended on domestic sales and small-scale exports to nearby countries. AP

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