March 20, 2012 / 7:17 PM / 6 years ago

Afghan revenge risks foreign support, says UN envoy

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A violent response by some Afghans to U.S. soldiers burning copies of the Koran and to a massacre of 16 Afghan villagers could have “profound implications” on international support for the war-torn country, U.N. envoy Jan Kubis said on Tuesday.

But Afghanistan’s U.N. Ambassador Zahir Tanin instead told the U.N. Security Council that the foreign forces accused of the incidents were to blame for any weakening of Kabul’s trust and cooperation with other countries.

A U.S. soldier has been accused of killing 16 Afghans, including nine children, last week, fueling Afghan anger sparked last month by U.S. soldiers inadvertently burning copies of the Koran at a NATO base.

The Koran-burning incident triggered widespread anti-Western protests in which at least 30 Afghans were killed and some Afghan security forces also killed American soldiers. The civilian massacre led to Taliban threats to behead U.S. troops.

Kubis, who took on the top U.N. job in Afghanistan two months ago, described the attacks on NATO troops and the United Nations as unacceptable.

“These malicious acts have potentially profound implications for these essential efforts, for public support needed for enduring commitment of the international community to assist Afghanistan and its people,” said Kubis.

“I commend the appeals and actions of the majority of religious leaders and community elders who ensured that deep anger was expressed at peaceful community gatherings and I condemn sermons and appeals of those few who called for violence,” he said.

The massacre of Afghan civilians has weakened the support of 40 percent of Americans for the decade-long war by Afghan and foreign forces against Taliban-led insurgents, found a March 12-13 online poll by Reuters/Ipsos.

The U.N. Security Council is due to vote on Thursday to renew the mandate of the world body’s political, development and aid mission in Afghanistan.

“Our confidence needs to be deepened by real cooperation, trust and mutual respect between Afghanistan and the international community,” Tanin told the Security Council.

“The recent incidents ... and similar atrocities could undermine our trust and cooperation by inciting deep sorrow, anger and frustration among Afghan people,” he said. “It’s imperative that these incidents are ended immediately and the perpetrators be held accountable.”

The U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations, Rosemary DiCarlo, reiterated to the council President Barack Obama’s sadness and shock at the massacre and the administration’s commitment to hold accountable anyone responsible.

Foreign forces in Afghanistan - who helped oust the Taliban in 2001 for harboring al Qaeda after the extremist group’s September 11 attack on the United States - are in the process of handing control of security over to the Afghan army and police, with foreign combat troops due to leave by the end of 2014.

Editing by Bill Trott

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