A major U.S. newspaper reports that former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad is seeking a powerful unelected position in Afghanistan.

The New York Times quotes senior U.S. and Afghan officials as saying that Khalilzad has been in talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai for several weeks.

The newspaper says a senior official in President Barack Obama's administration described the position Khalilzad is seeking as Afghanistan's "chief executive officer."  The U.S. official is quoted as saying that Khalilzad could play a role equivalent to that of a prime minister, but that his actions would not be directed by parliament.

The Times quoted the unnamed American official as saying that Khalilzad could serve as "a prime minister, except not [be] prime minister, because he wouldn't be responsible to a parliamentary system."  

Khalilzad reportedly discussed the possibility of such a move with Mr. Karzai during the Afghan president's visit to Washington earlier this month.

In Kabul, a spokesman for Mr. Karzai is quoted by Reuters news agency as saying he is not planning to install Khalilzad as a chief executive of his administration.

Khalilzad had been considered a possible challenger to President Karzai in this year's Afghan elections, but he allowed a deadline to lapse without registering as a candidate.

Khalilzad, who was born in Afghanistan 58 years ago, was a university professor in the United States at the time of the Soviet invasion of the country in December 1979.  Among a series of senior U.S. diplomatic posts, he served as ambassador to Afghanistan from 2003 through 2005, when former President George W. Bush was in office.  

If Khalilzad accepts a position in Mr. Karzai's administration, he presumably would be able to retain his American citizenship.

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