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Departing Afghan Official Denies Rift With President, Urges More Action on Drug Trade


Afghanistan's departing Interior minister has accused government officials of supporting the country's illegal drug trade. Ali Ahmad Jalali's resignation, announced Tuesday, fueled reports of a political rift with President Hamid Karzai over the government's ties to alleged warlords and drug traffickers.

A day after he announced his resignation Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali called a news conference to deny speculation that his departure was politically motivated.

Mr. Jalali was one of President Hamid Karzai's best known and most respected cabinet members.

Wednesday, Mr. Jalali insisted he had not fallen out with the president but did express deep frustration with the government's efforts to stem the country's illegal drug trade.

Mr. Jalali urged the government to act against officials with ties to Afghanistan's opium and heroin trade.

"Without that we will not be able to bring about a healthy administration that will only serve the people, will deliver to the people what they are supposed to deliver," he said.

Mr. Jalali said the government has a list of officials with alleged links to drug traffickers but lacks sufficient evidence to take action.

But he also rejected any suggestion that the effort to combat drugs lacked support from President Karzai or other members of his administration.

"This is something that we want, the interior minister wants, the president wants and the whole government wants: to clean the government, clean the administration," Mr. Jalali said.

Mr. Jalali joined President Karzai's cabinet in 2003, quickly earning a reputation as a fierce opponent of the country's opium and heroin trade.

Afghanistan produces around 90 percent of the world's illegal opium. Drug trafficking is by far the country's largest industry and the enormous profits help prop up various provincial warlords.

President Karzai has declared a jihad or religious struggle against the drug trade. But analysts also suggest Mr. Karzai is unwilling to subject the country's new government to an all out fight with the powerful drug cartels.

Mr. Jalali said he has been planning his resignation for months but had promised Mr. Karzai he would wait until after last week's landmark parliamentary elections.

He told reporters he plans on returning to academia once he leaves office. Mr. Jalali previously spent nearly three decades in the United States working as a writer and broadcast journalist, in charge of VOA's Afghan language service.

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