Lord Ashdown drops bid to be UN envoy in Kabul

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The former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown has withdrawn his candidacy for UN envoy to Afghanistan after the government of Hamid Karzai made clear it did not wish him to take up the post.

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, who served as the organisation's high representative and EU envoy to Bosnia between 2002 and 2005, said: "This job can only be done successfully on the basis of a consensus within the international community and the clear support of the government of Afghanistan. It is clear to me that, in Afghanistan at least, the support necessary to do the job effectively does not exist. I have therefore reluctantly decided to withdraw my name from consideration for this position."

It is understood that President Karzai stressed his objection to Lord Ashdown taking the job when he met Gordon Brown and the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, last week at the World Economic Forum at Davos.

The Afghan authorities have said they would prefer General John McColl, the British officer who serves as Nato's deputy commander in Europe. He served as the first head of the international security force in Afghanistan in 2002.