Afghan President: No Hard Feelings Over Cameron Corruption Comments

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, pictured speaking to the National Assembly in Kabul, April 25, said his country is working hard to fight corruption. WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said there are no hard feelings after David Cameron described his country as "fantastically corrupt."

Ghani will speak at a global anti-corruption summit in London on Thursday, just days after the British Prime Minister was overheard on camera describing Afghanistan and Nigeria as "possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world."

"He was describing the legacy of the past, a legacy in which many actors, many factors combined to produce one of the most corrupt countries on earth," Ghani told BBC Radio 4's Today program on Thursday. "But that's not the desire of our people and I've been elected on a mandate to make transparency, accountability and rule of law the imperative."

Afghanistan is currently ranked 166th out of 168 countries—ahead of only North Korea and Somalia—in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Inde , which judges perceived levels of public sector corruption in different countries. A 2012 report by the Asia Foundation found in Afghanistan a "high perception of corruption over the years, at all levels of government" and in non-governmental bodies such as the private sector and the Taliban.

Ghani admitted that corruption was a problem in his country and welcomed international cooperation in tackling it. "The first part of addressing the problem begins with acknowledgement and we are partners in an effort to overcome this cancer," he said.

The Afghan president, however, added that the West's drug problem constituted the most "significant driver of corruption" and also contributed to terrorism and extremism. Afghanistan produces 90 percent of the world's supply of opium poppy, the base ingredient of heroin, much of which is exported to Western countries such as the United States.

Ghani added that he had instituted a number of reforms to fight corruption since his election in September 2014, including the creation of a counter-corruption center and wholesale reforms of the judiciary, including the changing of more than 600 judges.

He added that the Afghan government remained committed to peace talks with the Taliban. The armed group has launched several deadly attacks in recent months, stalling proposed peace talks, and the government has responded by executing several Taliban prisoners. "Their position [the Taliban's] has changed, not mine," said Ghani. "We are committed to a peace process but we need conditions that they renounce violence."