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Afghan President in US to Mend Ties

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has arrived in Washington for a four-day visit aimed at mending bilateral ties after a series of public disagreements with U.S. officials.

Mr. Karzai, who is accompanied by nearly a dozen members of his Cabinet, will attend a dinner hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday evening, before holding talks with her on Tuesday. The Afghan leader will meet with President Barack Obama on Wednesday.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says the discussions will focus on Afghan security, governance, including Mr. Karzai's efforts to fight corruption, and his outreach to Taliban insurgents who want peace.

President Karzai's visit is the first since he angered U.S. officials by claiming that foreign governments and the United Nations were behind the massive fraud in last year's Afghan presidential election.

When asked about relations between the two countries, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry told reporters that the U.S. and Afghan governments have never been better aligned.

During Monday's White House briefing, Eikenberry and Gibbs did not directly answer questions of whether U.S. concerns about Mr. Karzai's leadership have been allayed.

Eikenberry said Mr. Karzai is the elected president of Afghanistan and that he respects the Afghan leader in that capacity. Gibbs noted that with any bilateral relationship, there will be times "when we agree and times when we disagree."

In an editorial published in the Washington Post Sunday, Mr. Karzai acknowledged that the United States and Afghanistan have had their "share of disagreements." But he said an "overriding strategic vision of Afghanistan whose peace and stability can guarantee the safety" of Afghans and Americans is what has kept the two countries together.

During Monday's White House briefing, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, said the focus is on developing the Afghan force to eventually take over security responsibilities. He said violence in the south will increase as U.S. forces expand into Taliban-controlled areas, but that President Obama's strategy will ultimately succeed.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.