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Afghan grand assembly to decide on U.S.troops' immunity beyond 2014: Karzai

Afghan traditional Loya Jirga or grand assembly of elders and tribal chieftains will decide on U.S. troops' immunity from prosecution after 2014 in Afghanistan, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Monday.

"The decision on granting immunity from prosecution to a number of U.S. servicemen to stay in Afghanistan after 2014 and use military facilities in Afghan soil will be taken by the people of Afghanistan in a Loya Jirga," Karzai told reporters in a press conference after returning home from United States.

However, he did not set any date for holding the Loya Jirga or grand assembly, adding bilateral negotiations for inking the proposed security pact with United States would take several months, possibly seven to eight months.

Karzai went on to say that a "very very small number of American troops" will remain in Afghanistan after 2014 pullout of NATO-led force from the country.

The Afghan leader added that Afghanistan and the United States have been working on a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA).

Negotiations between the United States and Afghan governments on the security agreement formally began in Kabul on Nov. 15 last year and it was supposed to be inked during Karzai's three-day official visit to Washington which ended last Friday.

U.S. President Barack Obama during a joint press conference with Karzai last Friday said that the U.S. troops must have judicial immunity in order to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014 when the NATO-led forces leave Afghanistan.

The controversial agreement of BSA, if signed, would guarantee the presence of U.S. military at least for several years in Afghanistan, a contentious issue that has been opposed by some circles at home and neighboring states.

[Source: Xinhua, Kabul, 14Jan13]

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