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Top U.N. official in Afghanistan, after rocky tenure, to leave post

Norway's Kai Eide has clashed with his U.S. deputy over fraud in Karzai's reelection.

KABUL, Afghanistan - The top U.N. official in Afghanistan, accused of not being tough enough with President Hamid Karzai over the issue of corruption, will not seek reappointment when his contract expires in March, U.N. officials said yesterday.

Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide is following through on his previous intention to leave when his two-year contract is finished, U.N. spokesman Dan McNorton said.

"This is not a question of resigning," McNorton said. "Kai Eide is sticking to the timetable."

McNorton said the decision was unrelated to the public clash between Eide and his American deputy Peter Galbraith. Galbraith was fired when he said his boss had not done enough to publicize fraud in Karzai's reelection.

Eide, 60, also reportedly had clashed with U.S. special envoy Richard C. Holbrooke over whether a "special representative" should be named to work daily with Karzai on fighting corruption.

In a speech this week, Eide said the international community needed to strengthen Afghan institutions rather than try to work around them.

"If the people of Afghanistan know that a good future is waiting for them," he said, "they will not be weak."

But he said corruption was rampant, noting that a survey by the world body found that half of high-level officials were either corrupt or too weak to fight corruption in their midst.

Eide's announcement came just days before Karzai is expected to announce his choices for cabinet ministers. International leaders, including President Obama, are watching the selections to see whether the Afghan leader follows through on his promise to purge corrupt or questionable officials.

The U.N. mission in Afghanistan includes coordinating the delivery of humanitarian aid, monitoring human rights, and assisting Afghan-led efforts at reconciliation with insurgents.

Eide said he feared that the U.S. military buildup in Afghanistan recently ordered by President Obama would increase pressure for quick results from civilian aid projects to satisfy taxpayers in donor countries, when what is needed is to build up Afghanistan's ability to sustain itself.

Not enough expertise exists inside the U.N. system, he said, and civilian-military provincial reconstruction teams are the most "uncoordinated part of the civilian effort."

Eide also lamented that while thousands of Afghan civil servants were being trained, it is difficult to persuade them to take local official positions paying only $60 to $70 a month.

"They say, 'Why should we?' " Eide said. ". . . They don't have electricity. They might have a monthly operating budget of $15 a month."