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Afghan President Delays Signing Deal with US

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ignored a recommendation by the country's grand assembly, or Loya Jirga, to immediately sign a new bilateral security agreement with the United States.

Mr. Karzai says Afghanistan needs more time to ensure the United States is committed to peace.

The Loya Jirga endorsed the bilateral security agreement with the United States Sunday and called for the president to sign it immediately.

Mr. Karzai repeated his previous position that he would wait until after the upcoming presidential election in April to sign the deal allowing a continued presence of some U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014.

But U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says it is critical that the security agreement is signed in short order so both countries can keep working together for a more secure and prosperous future for Afghanistan.

Kerry says he cannot imagine a more compelling affirmation of the Afghan people's commitment to a U.S. partnership than the Loya Jirga's endorsement.



U.S. officials have rejected a delay, saying they would not be able to form long-term plans on a troop presence without an agreement in place by the end of this year. U.S.-led international combat forces in Afghanistan are set to withdraw by the end of next year.

The draft agreement spells out terms under which international forces will remain in Afghanistan to assist the government in its war against Taliban insurgents.

The majority of Afghan tribal leaders supported the agreement, which would take effect January 1, 2015, and keep U.S. troops and civilian personnel in Afghanistan for at least another decade.

OPTIONAL SOUNDBITE

HAMID KARZAI, AFGHAN PRESIDENT :

"We have a condition in order to have the bilateral security agreement. Our condition is the implementation of peace in our country. If peace is not established, this agreement will bring misery for our country. We are ready to sign this agreement based on your Loya Jirga demands, but we want America to bring us peace."

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