Afghan President Hamid Karzai says his government stands by its commitment to dissolve private security companies, but will consider exceptions for major development projects.

Mr. Karzai issued a decree in August ordering private security firms out of the country by the end of the year, with the exception of those protecting embassies and military bases.

At a meeting Sunday, Mr. Karzai said Afghanistan remains firm in its decision, but asked large-scale international development projects in need of security to present a list of their projects and security needs to the government.

On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned Mr. Karzai to suggest formulating a joint plan to phase out private security companies gradually without disrupting the work of contractors and aid agencies.

Mr. Karzai has said that private guards undermine his nation's army and police.  He wants Afghan forces to take over the task of protecting aid workers and projects.

Mr. Karzai estimates up to 40,000 people work for security companies in Afghanistan.  The Pentagon says the number is closer to 26,000.

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