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    Karzai rebuffs ‘US threats’ over security deal

    KABUL (PAN): Lashing out at the United States, President Hamid Karzai has accused Washington of making threats in the dispute over an agreement.

    In an interview with the French daily Le Monde, Karzai said the US was "absolutely" acting like a colonial power in its attempts to force him to sign the bilateral security agreement by the end of this year.

    The paper quoted him as assaying: "The threats they are making, 'We won't pay salaries, we'll drive you into a civil war.' These are threats."

    Washington and NATO officials say the pact is critical to the plan to keep thousands of forces in Afghanistan after 2014 for a training and counterterrorism mission.

    In the interview, Karzai said he could "green light" the agreement before presidential elections due next April under two conditions: an end to airstrikes and foreign raids on Afghan homes; and greater US efforts to help broker peace with the Taliban.

    Civilian deaths at the hands of U.S. and allied soldiers have been a key source of contention, exacerbated last month by a US drone strike that killed a child. Karzai called on the U.S. to use "secret contacts" that he's convinced it has with the Taliban to help advance the peace process.

    Karzai, who is in South Africa to pay homage to the world's most respected leader Nelson Mandela on his funeral, is expected to meet with several world leaders, his spokesman told Pajhwok Afghan News on Tuesday.

    Aimal Faizi, who with President Karzai attended the memorial service that began with an emotional note by the leaders of African countries, said the Afghan delegation also included Presidential Advisor on National Security Rangin Dadfar Spanta and acting foreign minister Ahmad Muqbil.

    A number of world leaders, including UK Prime Minister David Cameron, had requested their meeting with Karzai, Faizi said, but did not name other leaders wishing to see Karzai.

    Close to 90 head of states and dignitaries including Bill Clinton, George W Bush, Hillary Clinton, Cameron, South African President Jacob Zuma, Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu were among the leaders who were present at the memorial service. The leader will be buried Qunu on Dec 15.
    Faizi said UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and US President Barack Obama and other world leaders addressed participants of the memorial service.

    Speaking very high of Nelson Mandela, Obama said that he left a lesson behind for all the people to follow. Mandela's smile spoke of serenity, but all knew the determination behind that smile. Obama further spoke about Mandela's contribution to the country and the world, setting an example of equality, love and brotherhood.

    President Karzai flew to South Africa from Tehran, where he met with his Iranian counterpart and agreed to a future friendship agreement between the two neighbouring countries.

    ma/mds