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Karzai not to sign security deal

Kabul/Washington, Nov. 26 (Reuters): Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign a security deal with the US, the White House said, opening up the prospect of a complete withdrawal of US troops from the strife-torn nation next year.

Karzai told US National Security Adviser Susan Rice in Kabul yesterday that the US must put an immediate end to military raids on Afghan homes and demonstrate its commitment to peace talks before he would sign a bilateral security pact, Karzai’s spokesman said.

The White House said Karzai had outlined new conditions in the meeting with Rice and “indicated he is not prepared to sign the promptly”. “Without a prompt signature, the US would have no choice but to initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no US or Nato troop presence in Afghanistan,” a White House statement quoted Rice as saying.

The complete withdrawal, called the “zero option”, would be similar to the pull-out of US troops from Iraq two years ago. On Sunday, an assembly of Afghan elders, known as the Loya Jirga, endorsed the security pact, but Karzai suggested he might not sign it until after national elections next spring.

The impasse strengthens questions about whether any US and Nato troops will remain after the end of next year in Afghanistan, which faces a still-potent insurgency waged by Taliban militants and is still training its own military.

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