NEW DELHI -- Seeking to dispel widespread rumors that he would find a way to cling to power beyond the end of his second term next year, Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai said Wednesday that there was "no circumstance that will allow me to stay as president."
"And there are two reasons for that," he said. "One is, I'm exhausted. Really, totally exhausted, and I would like to be retired. And second, why would I ruin my legacy by staying on and taking an opportunity away from Afghanistan to become an institutionalized democracy?"
Elections are set for April, and U.S. and European officials privately say billions of aid dollars on which Afghanistan depends would be jeopardized if the vote does not happen. That message has been conveyed to Mr. Karzai, officials said, and he repeatedly has sought to dispel talk that he would try to stay on beyond his constitutionally mandated two terms.
But rumors have persisted, fueled in part by potential contenders' reticence to declare interest in running. To do so, Afghan politicians and analysts say, would be to acknowledge that Mr. Karzai is a lame duck. With government power highly centralized around the president (he appoints everyone from ministers to district governors), few top officials are willing to risk angering him by openly campaigning to fill his job.
Mr. Karzai said he had come to New Delhi with a "wish list" that he hopes India will provide. He and others in his party refused to specify what was on the list. India provides training to Afghan forces, although that training is done entirely in India. India could provide small arms made in India, but those weapons are generally not highly regarded. Most weapons Afghanistan might want, India has to buy itself from abroad.
Mr. Karzai dismissed the idea that Afghanistan might turn as violent and chaotic as Iraq after most foreign troops leave in 2014. "Iraq is a very unfortunate situation. We are pained to see the way Iraq is suffering," he said. "I can tell you with a strong measure of confidence that Afghanistan will not see that."
The reason, he said, is that Afghanistan has never seen the sort of sectarian violence that Iraq has experienced.