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US Senators Hold Talks with Afghan President Karzai


U.S. soldiers and Afghan policemen keep watch after a car bomb blast in the southern city of Kandahar, Afghanistan, February 20, 2012.

U.S. soldiers and Afghan policemen keep watch after a car bomb blast in the southern city of Kandahar, Afghanistan, February 20, 2012.

U.S. Senator John McCain said he hopes a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan can be finalized before a NATO meeting in May, but that the United States will not resolve sensitive issues in a way that might put American service members at risk.

McCain made the comments after holding talks Sunday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai along with a team of U.S. senators.

The president's office said Mr. Karzai pushed for the transfer of Bagram prison to Afghan control, and stressed the need for an end to night raids by international troops. He said the issues are of "grave importance" to the Afghan people.

Carrying out the raids at night is important for troop safety, said McCain.

"So we emphasized to President Karzai that we believe that this issue can be resolved, but we are strongly opposed to any termination of night raids because of the added risk it would put on the men and women in our military, which obviously is not something that we would ever agree to.''

McCain also said successful peace talks with the Taliban will be more difficult because of the planned pullout of international troops by the end of 2014.

Meanwhile, despite a massive campaign by coalition and Afghan forces to increase security in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, Afghan police reported a suicide bomber attacked a police station there on Monday, killing at least one police officer.

Kandahar police chief Abdul Raziq said the attacker detonated a bomb-laden car outside the station, injuring at least four other people, both police and civilians. The blast also badly damaged a nearby civilian compound.

There was no immediate claim or responsibility for the attack, but similar bombings in the past have been blamed on the Taliban.

Also Monday, three Italian soldiers died when their armored vehicle crashed into a canal in western Afghanistan, overturning as they were crossing a stream in Herat province's Shindand district, officials said.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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