March 23, 2009 / 2:52 PM / 11 years ago

Holbrooke rejects report on sidelining Karzai

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A senior U.S. official rejected on Monday a newspaper report that Washington and its European allies sought to create a new chief executive or prime ministerial role in Afghanistan to rival President Hamid Karzai.

“I don’t know what they’re talking about,” Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told reporters in Brussels, referring to the report in British newspaper The Guardian.

“It doesn’t reflect any views that I am aware of in the government I work for and it’s certainly not a universal NATO plan or anything,” he said.

“Many people, including Afghans themselves, have called for a prime ministerial system, but the system of the government is the one set up by the Afghan constitution,” Holbrooke said.

“And nobody should be trying to change the constitution, except in accordance with its own provisions. I have no idea what that article was about.”

In Kabul, Karzai’s spokesman Humayun Hamidzadeh called the report “nonsense.”

“Introducing a prime minister in a country in which there is a constitution which says there is a presidential system is simply impossible.”

Karzai, who faces presidential polls this year, is widely seen as ineffective by his Western backers.

The Guardian report said the idea of installing a more dependable figure to work alongside Karzai was one of the proposals in an Afghanistan strategy review by the administration of President Barack Obama.

Holbrooke was in Brussels to discuss the review with NATO and EU ambassadors.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom, editing by Mark Trevelyan

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