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European leaders are telling re-elected Afghan President Hamid Karzai in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that he needs to govern better.

"It is now of utmost importance that he lives up to our expectations" by putting together an honest, productive and inclusive government, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Tuesday during a news conference at the organization’s headquarters in Brussels.

He later said that a prerequisite of continued international involvement in the war and reconstruction efforts was "that the government in Kabul strengthen the fight against corruption and deliver basic services to the Afghan people."

The international community, but particularly those nations with troops in Afghanistan, "hope to see an Afghan government emerge that responds to the will of the people, that reaches out to all parts of Afghan society, and that is ready to take strong action to meet the challenges that Afghanistan faces," said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Sunday after Karzai rival Abdullah Abdullah pulled out of the presidential runoff.

Similar aspirations have been expressed in other European cities, from Madrid to The Hague, Netherlands.

One NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity, expects European leaders will be even more insistent on Karzai’s need to root out corruption. The mandate of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan "is to set the conditions for the Afghan government to expand its authority," he said.

"The Afghan people continue to sit on the fence," the official said. "Outside Kabul, they don’t see their government in action."

In areas where the Taliban roam, outside the Afghan capital, the uncertainty spurred by the questionable and inconclusive Aug. 20 election gave the insurgency a boost, he said.

The Taliban "were the only ones who benefited from this" election crisis, he said. "This was ammunition for them."

Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have jointly called for a U.N.-led international conference on Afghanistan for early next year. Between them, they have about 15,000 soldiers in Afghanistan.

Oliver Schmidt, an analyst with the German think tank Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik (German Society for Foreign Policy), said the Afghan election commission’s declaration of Karzai as president has "shaken the trust of the people in the new democratic system."

"The roughly 30 percent of Afghans who voted for Abdullah Abdullah will probably wonder whether the newly installed system can be trusted," he said.

Schmidt said the numerous problems surrounding the elections have definitely weakened Karzai’s position but "it would be too easy to say Karzai now is a weak president."

His legitimacy hinges directly on his ability to improve Afghans’ living conditions, Schmidt said.

Stars and Stripes’ Marcus Klöckner contributed to this report.


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