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Afghan President's Brother Denies Links to Heroin Trade

The brother of Afghanistan's president is vehemently denying his alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade. Ahmed Wali Karzai told reporters in Kandahar that he will file a lawsuit against the New York Times newspaper, which most recently reported the allegation. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kabul.

Ahmed Wali Karzai says politics, not facts, are the basis for published reports linking him to heroin shipments. The brother of Aghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, contends political foes are generating the allegations.

The New York Times newspaper revived the long-standing issue, reporting on Saturday that top American officials are concerned the president's brother might be involved in the heroin trade and that President Karzai is shielding him.

At a news conference in Kandahar, where he heads the provincial council, Ahmed Wali Karzai blamed political opponents for fabricating such reports. He also suggested the U.S. report is a reprisal for the Afghan President's recent criticism of American airstrikes that caused civilian casualties.

He says he has never been nor ever will be a drug trafficker and people who know him are aware these kinds of allegations are baseless.

Karzai told reporters he has become a punching bag for those in the international community wanting to attack the President.

Karzai added that within one or two weeks his attorney will file a lawsuit in New York against people and publications making such allegations.

The New York Times report quoted anonymous senior Bush administration officials as saying the White House believes Ahmed Wali Karzai is involved in drug trafficking, and that American officials have repeatedly warned President Karzai that his brother is a political liability.

Afghanistan is the source of more than 90 percent of the world's opium, the raw ingredient in heroin.

The illicit opium industry has been the backbone of the economy of Kandahar province, where Taliban insurgents are active. Many farmers there continue to cultivate poppies.