US pact no threat to Afghanistan’s neighbours: Karzai

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KABUL, May 2, 2012 (AFP) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Wednesday the long-term strategic pact he signed overnight with visiting US President Barack Obama would pose no threat to neighbouring countries.

The deal “is not only not threatening any third country, including the neighbouring countries, but we are hoping that this leads to stability, prosperity and development in the region,” he said.Karzai was speaking at a signing ceremony in the presidential palace with Obama, who made a secret visit to Kabul to sign the pact and mark the anniversary of the death of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The document covers relations between the two countries after US-led NATO troops pull out in 2014, more than a decade after invading Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban regime for harbouring Bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks.

“The agreement provides for the possibility of US forces in Afghanistan after 2014, for the purposes of training Afghan forces and targeting the remnants of Al-Qaeda,” a White House fact sheet said.

But it does not not commit the US to any specific military troop levels or funding. The deal, which capped months of thorny negotiations, also states that the United States does not seek permanent military bases in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan holds a strategic position in a volatile region, with neighbouring countries including Iran, Pakistan and China.”Today we are signing an important and historic document,” Karzai said, according to a statement from his office.”With the signing of this document the past chapter of 10 years closes and a new chapter of new, friendly and equal relations opens,” he said.

“We as two independent and sovereign countries start a relationship of friendship, mutual respect and relations based on mutual commtiment.”I hope that this strategic document, while it shows our strong common commitment in the war on terrorism and (to) international peace… leads to the protection and prosperity of the people of Afghanistan.”

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