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US, Germany Press Afghan President on Reform

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The United States and Germany say the new Afghan government being formed by President Hamid Karzai needs to embrace reforms and curb corruption if it is to enjoy broader international support. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed Afghanistan with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on the sidelines of observances marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall.

The Obama administration and the new German government that took office late last month are reviewing their military commitments in Afghanistan and both are serving notice on President Karzai that they expect major reforms now that his new term in office has been assured.

The issue dominated Secretary Clinton's talks with Chancellor Merkel and her new Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

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Secretary Clinton and her German counterpart made clear at a joint press event that they expect Mr. Karzai to try to broaden his government and tackle the country's well-documented corruption problems.

Westerwelle, who was in Washington for talks with Secretary Clinton last week, said Afghanistan needs a government that represents all its people and one that adheres to the "yardsticks" of good governance.

Clinton said the United States and NATO allies are not in Afghanistan for altruistic reasons, but rather to counter a real security threat from what she termed a "syndicate of terrorism" led, funded and inspired by al-Qaida.

She said commitments of additional troops must be met by greater efforts by Mr. Karzai to improve governance.

"Any commitment by the governments and people of the United States, Germany and others who have joined with us, through both NATO and the international forces, has to be met by an even greater commitment on behalf of the new government of President Karzai to deliver services for the people of Afghanistan, to begin the effort to root out corruption, to have more accountability and transparency in the way the government operates," she aid.

President Obama has been deliberating over military proposals to boost U.S. strength in Afghanistan by as many as 40,000 troops, while the future of Germany's troop presence in Afghanistan was a key issue in the September elections that returned Chancellor Merkel to power.

Foreign Minister Westerwelle, heard through an interpreter, said Germany's priority is helping the Afghan government become capable of defending itself.

"We do want to make sure that Afghanistan is self-sufficient regarding security. And if we want this, then we have to make sure that Afghanistan has its own security infrastructure, that that system is there and we want to help build it," he said. "This is an important contribution that we can make. We discussed this as well, and this is also fully in line with my personal statements and the policies of the new government," said Westerwelle.

Germany currently has about 4,200 troops in Afghanistan, positioned mainly in the relatively-peaceful northern part of the country and focused on training missions. The new government has said it will take a fresh look at troop numbers early next year.