JIM LEHRER: Next tonight: Margaret Warner's interview with President Karzai of Afghanistan. It took place yesterday at the presidential palace in Kabul.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. President, thank you for having us.
HAMID KARZAI, President of Afghanistan: Most welcome, ma'am.
MARGARET WARNER: You said in your acceptance speech last week that your government had been seriously undermined by corruption. What do you mean by that?
HAMID KARZAI: It means the usual corruption in any government, especially in a Third World country, like Afghanistan, certain laws and procedures and management style that causes corruption, and that delays works, that causes corruption.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you mean people have to pay for government services under the table?
HAMID KARZAI: Yes, exactly, exactly, under the table.
And then we also mean corruption of a different kind, which is a lot more serious, which is new to Afghanistan. That is with the arrival of a lot of money to Afghanistan, the lack of transparency in the award of contracts, the serious corruption in implementing projects.
It's the international community also that shares responsibility with us. And that's what I hope we can correct together.
MARGARET WARNER: Now...
HAMID KARZAI: But the stigma falls mainly on Afghanistan, because that's where it happens.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, ordinary Afghans tell us that they feel shaken down, they get shaken down even by police or by petty officials when they want a license to do anything.
Are they right? Does this happen?
HAMID KARZAI: You're absolutely right. This is happening. And this is because of corrupt practices and also because of the procedures that we have.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, international officials, foreign officials say there is also corruption at the very highest levels, including in your intimate circle of cabinet ministers and advisers.
What concrete steps will you be taking to address that, and how soon would we see them?
HAMID KARZAI: So, when we say corruption in highest government circles, we must mean something by that. What does that mean?
Does it mean awarding contracts to relatives? Does it mean corruption in implementing projects? Unfortunately, that is more a slogan. It doesn't come to giving us the details.
Where we have received details on issues like that, where we have found facts on corrupt practices by senior government officials, we have acted. They have gone to prison.
MARGARET WARNER: But can you think of people, ministers, governors, close advisers to you, that you know now you will have to either let go or even allow to be prosecuted?
HAMID KARZAI: We have let go.
MARGARET WARNER: No, I'm asking in the future.
HAMID KARZAI: We will definitely. We have and we will.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask you also about the other demand from the international community. And I think you said yourself you want to make sure that, in your new cabinet, all these ministers are at the highest level of competence.
Will that mean that you will have to replace people who are important political allies? And how hard will that be for you?
HAMID KARZAI: I have to make decisions that will bring more stability to Afghanistan and more progress to Afghanistan that will enable us to do better as a country, as a nation, that will give us an efficient government.
And everybody agrees on that.