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Karzai Calls On Pakistan To End Rocket Fire In Afghanistan

Last updated (GMT/UTC): 27.06.2011 14:40

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has demanded that Pakistan stop bombarding the country's restive eastern border with rocket fire in a barrage of attacks that local officials say have killed at least 30 people, 12 of them children.

Karzai called for the attacks to "be stopped immediately," adding that "if they are not being carried out by Pakistan, Pakistan should make it clear who is behind the attacks."

The Afghan leader also said he spoke with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zadari about the issue during an antiterrorism conference in Tehran over the weekend.

Pakistan today denied the charges, with army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas saying no rockets had been intentionally fired into Afghanistan.

Abbas said it was possible, however, that some rounds fell into Afghanistan by mistake during skirmishes between the Pakistani Army and militants active on the border between the two countries.

'Suitable Response'

Local Afghan officials, meanwhile, have been increasingly vocal about the rise in violence, with Kunar Governor Fazlullah Waheedi calling for international intervention in comments to RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan on June 22.

"I want the international community to immediately intervene in this issue between the two countries and prevent civilian casualties," he said.

NATO forces have recently withdrawn from Kunar.

But General Mohammed Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, on June 22 said Afghan forces were capable of dealing with the problem themselves.

"If Afghan politicians allow us, the Afghan National Army is ready to give a suitable response to such actions," Azimi said. "Not only is the National Army [ready], but also if we allow local people in Kunar Province, they will reasonably respond to these actions."

The Afghan leader also said he spoke with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zadari about the issue during an antiterrorism conference in Tehran over the weekend.

Pakistan has not issued any official reaction.

Afghan forces on June 24 returned fire in response to rocket attacks in some eastern provinces. Officials say some 2,000 people have fled the area to escape rising violence.

Karzai's statement comes amid heightened militant activity tied to the recent U.S. killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and a protracted political crisis in Kabul.

In one of the latest instances of violence, local officials on June 25 accused insurgents of giving an 8-year-old Afghan girl a bomb hidden in a bag and detonating it as she came near Afghan policemen in the country's south.

UN Urges Parliament

The United Nations, meanwhile, is urging the Afghan parliament to avoid steps that could deepen a political crisis there.

Members of parliament are angered over a special tribunal that has ordered 62 lawmakers to give up their seats over fraud concerns. The tribunal was established by Karzai last year after weeks of infighting over September's parliamentary elections.

Lawmakers have sent a letter to the UN special representative in Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, asking for international help against the tribunal, which they described as illegal.

Karzai's chief spokesman Waheed Omar said today that the ongoing election crisis in Afghanistan was an internal issue in which the government would not allow any outside intervention.

Omar said the issue would be resolved internally and according to the Afghan Constitution.

written by Kristin Deasy in Prague, with contributions from Mustafa Sarwar of RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan


Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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