WASHINGTON (AFP) — US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice regretted that British politician Paddy Ashdown had withdrawn his bid to be UN envoy for Afghanistan, saying a "stable figure" was badly needed there.
"There needs to be a stable figure who can bring together and coordinate the multiple, multiple efforts of the international communities to support Afghanistan's reconstruction," Rice told reporters Monday at a press conference with Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith.
Ashdown, the international community's former envoy to Bosnia, said Sunday he had withdrawn from the running because of insufficient support from Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The international effort involves clearing areas of Afghanistan from "terrorists," then delivering goods and services to Afghans to prevent those areas from "falling back" into the hands of militants, she said.
"I think it is fair to say that the international community has not yet found a way to coordinate its effort in a way that is effective and efficient and can fully support the Afghan government in reconstruction," Rice said.
Having a strong track record in public service, Ashdown "would have done a superb job, I think, in this activity. He has decided to withdraw. He has given his own reasons for that.
"And I have to say that the United States is sorry this couldn't be worked out because we need strong leadership in the international community," Rice said.
She pledged that with US allies and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, as well as NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the US would continue to seek ways to coordinate international efforts in Afghanistan.
Rice's spokesman Sean McCormack also praised Ashdown.
"It's important that there be somebody to fill that role. Certainly Lord Ashdown would have been a highly experienced, extremely capable person to fill that role," McCormack said. "The work will continue in finding somebody to fill those shoes."
Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta said Kabul's objections were not down to Ashdown or his nationality but to a "negative atmosphere" created around the envoy role.
"It's better if our friends let us learn more and more by walking on our own feet, with our own experience," he said.
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