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US official blames Karzai outbursts on 'drug abuse'

Tensions between Washington and Hamid Karzai continued to simmer yesterday after the White House hinted that an invitation for him to visit President Barack Obama in May could be in jeopardy because of remarks the Afghan leader has made castigating the West for its actions in his country.

"We certainly would evaluate whatever continued or further remarks President Karzai makes, as to whether that's constructive to have such a meeting," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters on Tuesday.

Western diplomats thought it most unlikely that the invitation would be withdrawn. Nonetheless, there has been no hiding the dismay felt by the US since Mr Karzai first began lashing out at the US and its allies within hours of Mr Obama returning home after a surprise visit to Kabul.

Mr Karzai suggested that outside powers had been responsible for the vote-rigging that almost derailed his re-election last year. Two Afghan election officials who oversaw the poll said yesterday they were standing down.

The atmosphere between Washington and Kabul was hardly improved when a former deputy UN envoy to Kabul, Peter Galbraith, openly questioned the mental stability of Mr Karzai during an interview with the US cable news channel, MSNBC, and went so far as to insinuate that he might abuse drugs.

"He's prone to tirades, he can be very emotional, act impulsively," Mr Galbraith said. "In fact some of the palace insiders say that he has a certain fondness for some of Afghanistan's most profitable exports."