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Karzai sworn in as Afghan president

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 19 November 2009

As he was sworn in for a second term of office, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has pledged forces to take back control of their country's security within five years.

Hamid Karzai (picture: Reuters)

In his inauguration speech, Karzai pledged to tackle corruption and said his country's security forces should be ready to take over responsibility of unstable areas in three years.

Karzai also called for a "loya jirga", a traditional grand assembly, which under Afghanistan's constitution can take precedence over all government institutions including the presidency itself.

"Afghanistan wants to lead operations in non-secure areas in the next three years," Karzai said. Corruption, he said, is a "very dangerous issue, we must strongly pursue it".

"Ministers must be competent, professional and in service to the nation," Karzai said as hundreds of Afghan and foreign dignitaries watched.

His speech comes amid reports that Afghanistan's minister of mines accepted a $30m bribe to award a huge development project to a Chinese state firm, according to reports in The Washington Post.

Karzai claimed victory when the original election was held in August but subsequent investigations showed the results recorded at some polling stations were inadmissable.

As a result, thousands of votes cast for Karzai were discounted and his revised proportion of the vote was less than the required 50 per cent to be declared the outright winner.

A run-off was ordered between Karzai and his nearest rival Abdullah Abdullah, but Dr Abdullah pulled out of the election claiming he was not convinced the second vote would be more reliable.

That left Karzai as the winner by default and he will serve a second term of office.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have flown to Afghanistan to attend the ceremony and Afghan police sealed off roads in Kabul more than 24 hours before the ceremony was due to begin.

Mrs 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 you're going to have accountability and tangible results that will improve the lives of the people."

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama has said he is about to announce the results of a review of military strategy in Afghanistan and it will include an exit strategy to avoid "a multi-year occupation that won't serve the interests of the United States".

Thursday has been declared a national holiday in Afghanistan but locals have been warned to stay off the streets.

Karzai was originally elected in 2004 in the country's first democratic elections. That was seen as a symbolic new start for Afghanistan and the inauguration that year was attended by three former US presidents and vice president Dick Cheney.

This time around 300 foreign dignitaries witnessed the inauguration but Miliband and Clinton were the most senior officials representing Britain and America and they were joined by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

During the inauguration speech, Karzai made promises about tackling corruption, the possibility of Afghan forces taking control of security and holding talks with the Taliban in the future.

Mr Miliband responded by saying: "He's never made such detaied commitments or such comprehensive commitments as those today. Obviously it's important that deeds are followed by words but it's in his interest and his country's interests that he follows through."

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