President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan acknowledged Monday that he has received cash from Iran - and he said the United States knows about it and does the same thing.
His comments followed a report in The New York Times saying that Iranian officials once gave Karzai's chief of staff a bag stuffed with cash as "part of a secret, steady stream of Iranian cash" totaling millions of dollars. That stream, the newspaper reported, gives the president and his chief of staff a fund that has been used to pay "Afghan lawmakers, tribal elders and even Taliban commanders to secure their loyalty."
Karzai told CNN on Monday that the United States is and has been aware of Iran's financial contributions. He also said that the United States gives bags of money.
"The United States is doing the same thing," he said. "They are providing cash to some of our offices."
The president said Iran "asked for good relations in return and for lots of other things in return."
"The cash payments are done by various friendly countries to help the president's office and to help dispense assistance in various ways to the employees around here, to people outside, and this is transparent and this is something that I have discussed," Karzai said. "Even when we were at Camp David [Maryland] with President [George W.] Bush, this is nothing hidden."
"We are grateful to Iran for the help that they are giving and to those receiving that help under my instruction," he said.