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U.S. deal falters as Karzai gets tough

AFP-JIJI

A security deal to allow some U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan to fight al-Qaida was at risk of collapse Tuesday after President Hamid Karzai said he was prepared to walk away from negotiations.

The United States has pushed for the bilateral security pact to be signed by the end of this month so that the U.S.-led NATO military coalition can schedule its withdrawal of 87,000 combat troops by the end of next year.

But Karzai said he refused to be rushed into signing the deal, and would first seek approval from a traditional grand assembly to be convened in a month’s time.

“The agreement has to suit Afghanistan’s interests and purposes. If it doesn’t suit us and if it doesn’t suit them, then naturally we will go separate ways,” Karzai said in a BBC interview in Kabul.

According to the Afghan government, talks ground to a halt over U.S. demands for the right to conduct unilateral military operations after 2014, and on how the U.S. would pledge to protect Afghanistan.