UNITED NATIONS: US envoy to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad has denied press reports that he provided political advice to his long time friend Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s Presidential candidate and Benazir Bhutto’s widower. Khalilzad told reporters on his first day on the job following summer vacation in Europe that “I have not provided him with any advice…I’ve been ambassador to two sensitive countries – Iraq and Afghanistan – I know the complexity of managing relations with sensitive countries.
“I’am also aware of the phone being an unreliable and untrustworthy instrument for communicating, in terms of security. So I wouldn’t, as somebody as experienced as myself, offer any advice to a friend on an open line on behalf of the US. You have to give me a little more credit than that.” He admitted, however, that on a couple of occasions a “susbstantive issue was raised with me” by Zardari and his late wife Benazir Bhutto while they were out of Pakistan and “immediately of course reported back to Secretary Rice.” He denied also that he will run in Afghanistan’s Presidential elections, stressing once again that he will go back to the private sector once his term ends later this year.
Asked about the UN assessing the number of civilian casualties in a US raid in Afghanistan late last month to 90, compared to a much lower number presented by the US, Khalilzad said the US reiterates its call for a joint UN-US-Afghan investigation into the incident to “clarify exactly what has happened. Our people are quite confident of their numbers.”-SANA