Minister a man of honour and ethics

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2006, 12:00am

He is sometimes likened to former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer - they took to leftist politics as teenagers, were inspired by the 'Frankfurt School' of adaptable Marxism, and have reputations for outspokenness.

But Rangeen Dadfar Spanta is the foreign minister of Afghanistan, where it can be risky to be forthright. This does not seem to deter Dr Spanta.

The 53-year-old former professor of political science from a German university does not even spare his mentor and boss, President Hamid Karzai, having publicly criticised him for not acting more firmly against warlords and drug barons.

Dr Spanta became an ardent Maoist at the age of 14. He fled after the Soviet invasion in 1979, ending up in Germany where he joined the Green Party and an association of Afghan exiles.

Mr Karzai brought him back to Kabul in January last year as his foreign policy adviser, and a year later made him foreign minister. Dr Spanta now describes himself as a 'Muslim democrat'.

There are many tales about his principled approach to public service. One recounts how, when a group of European legislators tried to leave two tins of expensive caviar in his office, he glared at them and threatened to call the police.