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By Jamie Crawford
If Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California, an influential member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is looking for a country to visit as a member of a congressional delegation, he can cross Afghanistan off his list.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Rohrabacher have been at loggerheads over the congressman's push for a more decentralized Afghan government. Asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer about the disagreement, Karzai said he is against letting Rohrabacher into the country.
"Until he changes his tongue, until he shows respect to the Afghan people, to our way of life and to our constitution ... No foreigner has a place asking another people, another country to change their constitution. Have we ever asked the United States to change its constitution?" Karzai said in an exclusive interview that aired Monday on "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."
Last month, Rohrabacher was asked by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton not to travel on to Afghanistan with a congressional delegation that he was part of as it visited the region, after Karzai said the congressman was not welcome.
Both Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Rohrabacher it was not a good idea to travel to Afghanistan based on their own conversations with Karzai. Rohrabacher agreed, and did not travel on with the delegation from its previous stop in Dubai.
As chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee, Rohrabacher said his past scrutiny of the Afghan government and examination of how U.S. funds are spent in the war-torn nation likely played a role in Karzai's displeasure.
Coming on the heels of revelations of U.S. soldiers burning Qurans, and the alleged killing of Afghan civilians at the hands of a U.S. soldier, Clinton told Rohrabacher the timing of the visit was not right
"She felt that another mini-crisis might erupt," Rohrabacher told Blitzer last month, "because Karzai hated me so much that he would create a crisis, and she just thought it would be disruptive to our ability to get her job done."
Rohrabacher went on to call the mercurial Afghan leader a "corrupt prima donna" in the same interview.
In the interview that aired Monday, Karzai said he is firm on his position on Rohrabacher not because the congressman is "dangerous," but as a "matter of principle."
"Freedom of speech is good, we respect that, but the freedom of speech with regard to other countries is another issue," Karzai told Blitzer.
Rohrabacher later released a statement through his office saying he would not "apologize to Karzai or any other corrupt leader.
"Afghanistan is failing because Karzai and his corrupt clique are incompetent leaders, not because the U.S. hasn't pumped enough money or blood to help the brave people of Afghanistan ... Right now, I'm more concerned with getting American troops out of that country so they won't continue to needlessly die than I am getting myself into Afghanistan to meet with officials like Karzai," Rohrabacher said in the statement.