Image: Karzai
Musadeq Sadeq  /  AP
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his term should be extended since national elections have been postponed until August.
updated 3/7/2009 7:09:47 PM ET 2009-03-08T00:09:47

President Hamid Karzai accepted a decision to schedule elections Aug. 20, but suggested Saturday he should keep power during the three-month gap after his term expires in May, setting up a possible constitutional showdown.

An opposition leader said parliament won't accept Karzai as president after May 21, and warned that an extension of Karzai's term could trigger nationwide demonstrations.

But no political leaders have offered any generally accepted solution, and Karzai on Saturday argued that his term should be extended because of the delayed election.

The impasse comes as Taliban militants have gained control of wide areas of the south. The U.S. is sending 17,000 more forces to Afghanistan this year to bolster the record 38,000 already in the country.

According to the Afghan constitution, Karzai's last day as president should be May 21 and a presidential election "shall be held within 30 to 60 days prior to the end of the presidential term." But the election commission has said the vote should be held in August because of security issues, spring snow cover, and a lack of money to distribute ballots.

Some opposition leaders have also said the vote should be in August, because politicians running for president needed more time to prepare.

Acknowledges 'legal issue'
Karzai told a news conference Saturday that it could be legal for him to stay in power in the interim, saying that if the first part of the constitution's Article 61 is delayed — namely the vote date — then his term should also be extended.

"If the election is delayed, the whole article should be delayed," he said. "But this is not up to my decision. This is not up to my request. This is a legal issue."

He said the rule of law and legitimacy of the state were the most important factors for him, and that the country needs to reach a "national consensus."

Mohammad Nahim Farahi, a lawmaker and member of the National Front, a group of opposition lawmakers, said Karzai was misreading the constitution.

Farahi said there would be demonstrations "all over the country" if Karzai remains in office after May 21. The lawmaker suggested that the foreign minister or the leader of either of parliament's houses could become caretaker president, but Karzai said Saturday the constitution does not provide for that to happen.

The lower house of parliament, which is filled with lawmakers who want Karzai's job, passed a resolution earlier this year saying they would not recognize him as president after May 21.

Protest over U.S. raid
Separately, demonstrators in eastern Afghanistan blocked the path of a U.S. military convoy Saturday to condemn an early morning raid in Khost province that killed four people and wounded two, Khost Deputy Gov. Tahir Khan Sabari told The Associated Press.

Sabari said the four killed were civilians, but the U.S. said they were militants.

Demonstrators in Khost city threw rocks at the convoy, shouted "Death to America" and burned tires in the road, sending up dark plumes of smoke. AP Television News footage showed several hundred men gathered in the street blocking the vehicles' path, but there were no clashes.

The U.S. military said both Afghan and coalition forces raided an Afghan home, and that militants fired at them. The forces killed what the U.S. said were four men linked to the militant network of warlord Siraj Haqqani. One militant was wounded and four were detained, the military said in a statement.

It said 14 women and 26 children were "protected" during the raid, but did not give further details.

The forces found weapons, explosives and materials to make bombs, the statement said.

Overnight raids are typically targeted missions by U.S. Special Operations Forces that seek to capture or kill high-ranking militant leaders.

Sabari countered that no Afghan forces took part in the raid, despite a recent agreement between U.S. forces and the Ministry of Defense saying Afghans would be included in such operations to prevent civilian casualties and help with cultural issues and language difficulties when entering Afghan homes.

Karzai has complained during the last several months about civilian deaths, and has pleaded with the U.S. and NATO to prevent such killings. He made no comment Saturday on the raid in Khost.

In the south, a suicide attack near the main gate of a police station in the Zarang district of Nimroz province killed a civilian and a policeman, said Gov. Ghulam Dastagir.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments