KABUL  — Afghan President Hamid Karzai lashed out once again at his supposed ally, Pakistan, saying Monday that a statement by a Pakistani cleric endorsing suicide bombings in Afghanistan shows the neighboring country is not sincere in efforts to fight terrorism.

“Afghanistan wants a real struggle against terrorism and wants the Pakistani government to realise that both our nations are burning in the same fire,” the Afghan leader said, speaking at a press conference with visiting Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

“The Pakistani government has an essential and important role in putting out this fire,” Karzai added.

Karzai made the comment in response to a question about a statement last week by the head of All Pakistan Ulema Council who had been scheduled to travel to Afghanistan for a meeting of the two countries’ religious leaders.

The cleric, Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi of the All Pakistan Ulema Council, said in a television interview that suicide attacks in Afghanistan are lawful because NATO troops are invaders that have occupied the country.

Karzai noted that Ashrafi was appointed to the delegation by the Pakistani government, implying that the government in Islamabad was backing his views.

“We see that practical steps are not being taken to fight terrorism,” Karzai said, and added that a series of recent attacks in Pakistan show that the neighboring country is falling into chaos.

Ashrafi told an American news agency that his comments had been taken out of context and that he considered suicide bombings un-Islamic.

He said that he was asked in an interview about his views on suicide bombings in Afghanistan and said that it was natural that people would fight back when their homes were occupied but that didn’t necessarily mean suicide bombings.

Ashrafi said Karzai’s statement on Monday had shut the door to the Pakistani clerics taking part in the planned conference of religious leaders.

“It will not happen until Karzai and the Afghan government apologise,” Ashrafi said over the telephone from Cairo.

“The situation is getting out of control for everyone now. This is not to the benefit of Afghanistan, Pakistan or the region,” Karzai said.

Fogh Rasmussen also condemned the cleric’s statement and called on Pakistan to do more to rein in the extremist militants along its borders.

“Nothing can justify terrorist attacks,” Fogh Rasmussen said. “We have repeatedly urged the Pakistani government and the Pakistan military to step up the fight against terrorism and extremism in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. We need a positive engagement of Pakistan if we are to ensure long-term peace.”

Earlier, Rasmussen called on the Afghan government Monday to ensure free and fair presidential elections next year after widespread allegations of fraud marred the 2009 poll.

“It will be vital that these elections are inclusive, and that the process and the outcome are acceptable to the Afghan people,” said Rasmussen.

Rasmussen also called for Afghanistan to make more progress fighting corruption, boosting women’s rights and strengthening the rule of law.

“That will be key to maintain stability within Afghanistan, and support within the international community,” he said.