Obama, Karzai deplore Koran burning

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai deplored the burning of the Koran by a fundamentalist U.S. pastor in an hour-long video teleconference on Wednesday and condemned deadly violence sparked by the incident, the White House said.

Karzai and Obama discussed a range of topics in the call, including the gradual handover of security in Afghanistan from U.S. and NATO troops to Afghan control.

“The two leaders agreed on the importance of re-establishing peace in Afghanistan through progress on transition, an enduring U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership, and reconciliation,” the White House said in a statement.

A Christian fundamentalist pastor burned a Koran in Florida on March 20, news of which sparked days of protests in Afghanistan in which some two dozen people have been killed, including seven U.N. staff.

Previous condemnations of the Koran burning by Obama and other U.S. leaders has done little to placate anger or ease anti-Western sentiments across much of Afghan society.

The statement said Obama and Karzai were clear that attacking and killing innocent people “is an affront to human decency and dignity,” the White House statement said.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, editing by Xavier Briand)

Obama, Karzai deplore Koran burning