Clinton urges Afghan leader to institute reform

KABUL - November 18, 2009 Karzai is under stiff pressure from the U.S. and other nations to fight pervasive corruption in his government and many hope he will make a concrete commitment to reform in his inauguration speech Thursday, helping the country move past a fraud-tainted election that undermined trust in the government.

Clinton - one of more than 40 dignitaries from the U.S., Europe and other countries scheduled to attend the event - has said the U.S. will not provide civilian aid to Afghanistan unless it can be sure the government can be accountable for the funds.

"We stand at a critical moment on the eve of the inauguration of President Karzai's second term," Clinton said. "There is now a clear window of opportunity for President Karzai and his government to make a new compact with the people of Afghanistan to demonstrate clearly that they're going to have accountability and improve the lives of the people who live throughout this magnificent country."

For his part, Karzai has complained that foreign aid is being wasted before it ever gets to the Afghan people, noting that corruption is also pervasive in the international contracting process that doles out money.

This is Clinton's fourth trip to the country. She arrived a few hours late in Kabul from Beijing where she was accompanying President Barack Obama. Her first stop was an atrium at the heavily secured U.S. Embassy compound in the capital where she was greeted by a few hundred embassy staff.

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