Opposition: Extension of Karzai's term to lead to "crisis"

Opposition: Extension of Karzai's term to lead to "crisis" Kabul - The main opposition party in Afghanistan warned Monday that the decision by the Supreme Court to extend President Hamid Karzai's term until an election in August would lead the war-torn country to "political crisis and instability."

The country's high court ruled Sunday that Karzai should stay in power after his term ends May 22 until the elections are held August 20.

"The decision by the court was taken under pressure from the government; therefore, it is not acceptable for us," said Sayed Agha Fazel Sangcharaki, spokesman for the National Front, a coalition of the main opposition parties.

"Political parties and the Afghan people will not recognize him as a legitimate president after May," he said, adding, "Therefore, the decision will lead the country, which already has got enough problems, to turmoil, political crisis and instability."

Sangcharaki also warned of public demonstrations if the president insisted in staying in power.

According to the Afghan constitution, elections should be held 30 to 60 days before the expiration of Karzai's term, but the Independent Election Commission pushed back the vote until August because of poor security in some areas of the country, bad weather and logistical problems.

Karzai's opposition, including some of his opponents in the upcoming election, had already warned that they would not recognize Karzai as a legitimate leader and suggested that a caretaker administration be formed.

Karzai, who has hinted at running for re-election, had said he would call a national council of elders to resolve the matter if the court's ruling was not accepted by the opposition.

State-run TV said Sunday night that the president wrote to the high court Saturday, asking its opinions on what has to be done after the expiration of his term.

The court has recommended Karzai and his vice president stay in power until elections because "it was for the benefit of the country."

Western countries that have been supporting Karzai's government since the ouster of the Taliban regime in late 2001 had yet to comment on the issue. Diplomats in Kabul said they were worried that their meddling in the issue could be deemed as direct interference in Afghanistan's internal affairs.

However, some Western senior officials have hinted that they preferred the continuation of the current government.

During his latest visit to Afghanistan earlier this month, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the alliance wanted to see "continuity, stability and legitimacy" in Afghanistan but insisted that matter should be resolved by Afghans.

More than 70,000 international troops are under the commands of NATO and US-led coalition forces. The United States plans to send 17,000 additional combat soldiers and 4,000 military trainers before the elections to provide security for the vote. (dpa)