US 'disturbed' by Afghan refusal to let reporter leave

US 'disturbed' by Afghan refusal to let reporter leave

Washington (AFP) - Washington was "deeply disturbed" by Kabul's refusal Tuesday to let a New York Times reporter leave Afghanistan, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

Times reporter Matthew Rosenberg was called into the Afghan attorney general's office for questioning over a recent story, and banned from traveling when he refused to reveal a confidential source.

"We are deeply disturbed by the actions of the Afghan attorney general and by this travel ban that has allegedly been put into place," said Harf.

She urged the Afghan government "to respect fundamental freedoms of expression and expression of the press, and we'll continue to monitor it."

Harf said that US officials are in touch with the newspaper and will "continue to monitor the situation."

Rosenberg, who the Times says has been in Kabul for three years, published an article Tuesday stating that "powerful Afghan government figures" were in talks to form a temporary governing committee to break the deadlock resulting from the presidential election.

A spokesman for the Afghan attorney general confirmed to the Times that a travel ban was in effect "until this issue over this article is resolved."

The spokesman also said the attorney general would demand that Rosenberg divulge his sources for the article, The Times said.

The Afghan government has been paralyzed for months after the first round of the presidential election failed to produce a clear winner and the second round of voting in June triggered allegations of massive fraud.

Both Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank economist, and former anti-Taliban fighter Abdullah Abdullah have claimed victory.

Neither candidate appears willing to back down, and the dispute looks set to break out again when early results emerge from an anti-fraud audit of all eight million votes.

International pressure is building for Afghanistan to select the new president by the end of the month, as the pullout of US-led NATO troops continues and Taliban insurgents exploit political inertia.