Outgoing Afghan president downsizes retirement home

KABUL: Afghan President Hamid Karzai has decided a lavish residence specially built for his imminent retirement is too big and he will move into a more modest home instead, an official said Thursday.

Karzai was due to settle down in the imposing new property next door to the presidential palace — fuelling speculation that he intends to play an active role in the country´s politics when he leaves office.

But he has changed his mind and decreed that the colonnaded building with sweeping marble staircases would be more suitable as a guesthouse for foreign dignitaries and other visitors travelling to Kabul to meet the next president.

Karzai´s new domestic arrangements emerged as his two potential successors remain at loggerheads over who won the June 14 election, which has been engulfed in allegations of massive ballot-rigging.

“The house that was supposed to be for the retired president is built and was inaugurated today,” presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi told.

“But President Karzai has decided he will not live in this residence. It is too big and he said it was better for it to be a government guesthouse.”

He did not change his mind at the last minute. Weeks ago, he visited the project and said that it was way above the standards of life for ordinary Afghan people, so it should not be his future residence.

“He will have a normal, Afghan-type home in Kabul. It is not a newly-built house, and people will soon know exactly where it is.”