ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE The United States expects Afghan President Hamid Karzai to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington next month as planned, a top official said on Friday, despite recent exchanges that exposed a long-standing rift between the two sides.
"There is no modification in the plans to have Karzai come to Washington on May 12 to meet Obama," U.S. National Security Adviser General Jim Jones told reporters on Air Force One as Obama traveled back from Prague after signing a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia.
Jones also said the administration believes it has moved beyond the controversy.
"We have gotten through this period," he said.
Jones said Karzai and Obama have a good rapport and a respectful relationship.
Jones said Obama had sent Karzai a letter thanking him for his hospitality during Obama's visit last month, and said Karzai had assured Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that he "did not intend to create any damage in the relationship."
When asked if Washington considered Karzai a reliable partner, Jones responded: "We have a democratically elected president who is, by definition, our partner."
The war of words between Karzai and Washington escalated this week following accusations by Karzai, in the wake of Obama's first visit to Afghanistan as president, that the West carried out election fraud in Afghanistan.
Washington voiced frustration over the comments and had said it was considering postponing Karzai's U.S. trip.
Karzai's chief spokesman, Waheed Omer, played down Karzai's remarks on Wednesday, saying they were aimed at individuals who had made fraud allegations and were "not necessarily" directed at any specific country.
(Reporting by Caren Bohan, writing by Patricia Zengerle, editing by Bill Trott)