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    Strategic pact with France by January end

    KABUL (PAN): President Hamid Karzai and the visiting French defence minister on Saturday discussed a strategic cooperation pact between Kabul and Paris.

    At a meeting with Gerard Longuet, currently on a two-day visit to the Afghan capital, Karzai hinted at concluding the strategic deal with France by the end of the next month.

    Longuet expressed satisfaction with the ongoing process of transition to the Afghan security lead. The Sarobi district of Kabul, where French troops are stationed, is included in the second wave of the switch.

    According to a statement from Karzai's office, the visiting dignitary hoped the security transfer would take place in a gradual and successful fashion. The Afghan forces would be able to meet the challenge, he said.

    Karzai condoled Thursday's killing of two French troops by a man in the Afghan National Army (ANA) uniform in the Tagab district of central Kapisa province.

    He also thanked France, which has 3,600 troops fighting insurgents in Kabul and Kapisa, for training the Afghan army. Since 2001, 78 French soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.

    During his visit, Longuet will meet Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Gen. John Allen, the commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.