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Kabul rejects US call for swift signing of security pact

The Afghan government has rebuffed Washington's demands for quick approval of a new security pact. A spokesman said it must wait until next April.

US calls on Kabul to sign the new security pact by year's end have fallen on deaf ears in Afghanistan. A government spokesman said on Friday that "we do not recognize any deadline from the US side."

"They have set other deadlines also, so this is nothing new to us," said Aimal Faizi. It comes as the grand council of Afghan tribal elders and politicians, known as the Loya Jirga, is discussing the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA).

President Hamid Karzai had suggested on Thursday that the signing of the pact to let US troops remain in the country after 2014 should wait until after the elections.

It means Karzai, who has said he does not trust the Americans, would leave the approval of the pact to his successor, as he cannot run for another term.

The White House later urged Kabul to sign the deal as soon as possible so that the US would be able to plan its presence beyond the end of 2014, when the current ISAF mission ends.

Spokesman Faizi insisted that any decision to endorse the plan depended strictly on the recommendation of the Loya Jirga.

"It is absolutely up to the Jirga to decide about the BSA," he said. "The president very clearly said good security, peace and good elections are the key to the signing of this document."

On Thursday, Karzai recommended that the Loya Jirga endorse the BSA. "They will stay here for 10 more years to assist and train Afghan security forces and leave Afghanistan in 2024," Karzai told the gathering of about 2,500 tribal elders.

The governments in Washington and Kabul have spent almost a year debating the details of the agreement, which covers the period after ISAF security forces cease combat missions in Afghanistan at the end of 2014. Most countries with troops in Afghanistan have already begun the piecemeal process of withdrawing them.

ng/mkg (AFP, Reuters)

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