Karzai seeks unity, vows to fight corruption
Afghan President Hamid Karzai was sworn in for a second term yesterday, vowing to combat corruption and reaching out to his political rivals under Western pressure to restore legitimacy.
Karzai took the oath of office as the US-led war stretches into a ninth year, leaving record numbers of soldiers and civilians dead and with Taliban control extending deeper into the country after an election mired in fraud.
In a wide-ranging speech, Karzai promised action on a raft of problems that have caused consternation among his Western backers, weary of pouring military and financial aid into Afghanistan with little in return.
He pledged action on corruption, drugs, security and unemployment, and said he would call a "loya jirga" -- a meeting of political, tribal and community leaders from across the country's complex social make-up -- to bring peace.
"We will call Afghanistan's traditional loya jirga and make every possible effort to ensure peace in our country," he said, calling on Taliban "not directly linked to international terrorism to return to their homeland".
To many Afghans, Karzai's presidency lacks legitimacy, his government lacks authority and the way in which he took the presidency lacks credibility.
Addressing endemic official graft in a speech delivered before an audience of visiting foreign ministers, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he said: "Corruption is a dangerous problem."