Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai Saturday reiterated his preconditions for inking a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US, saying he will not sign unless the peace process begins and security is ensured in the country.
"We want to sign the BSA with US but in return we want peace and security for the people of Afghanistan," Xinhua quoted Karzai as saying in a press conference here. "Before inking the security agreement, the peace process must begin," the president added.
A traditional Loya Jirga, or grand assembly of tribal elders and notables, attended by 2,500 delegates from across the country last November endorsed the BSA and urged President Karzai to sign it before the end of 2013, a similar demand made by Washington.
But Karzai stated he would not sign the agreement unless and until the US halted searching Afghan houses during military operations, support meaningful peace process with the Taliban and ensure transparent elections slated for April 5 this year.
In reaction to the preconditions, Washington reportedly said that it did not have a "magic wand" to overcome problems overnight. The controversial BSA, if inked, would allow the US to keep a limited number of troops, reportedly 10,000, beyond the 2014 pullout of NATO-led forces from the militancy-plagued country.
Karzai also said that both the US and Pakistan could play a significant role in bringing about peace in Afghanistan. "Ensuring peace in Afghanistan is directly depending on America and Pakistan. If the US and Pakistan work honestly and cooperate honestly, peace will return in our country," he said.
Afghan officials have been accusing Pakistan of supporting Taliban militants, a claim spurned by Islamabad as groundless. "In return for inking the BSA, we want durable peace for our people; otherwise it would be better for them (foreign forces) to go," the president noted. "If the security agreement is inked but insecurity exists and the country lives in anarchy, in this case the BSA would be similar to Durand," Karzai said, referring to the Durand Line agreement, inked between the then Afghan king Amir Abdul Rahman and the erstwhile British empire in 1893, which separated a part of Afghanistan from the country.
The president also rejected the concerns as a psychological war that his country would plunge into instability after the NATO-led forces withdraw, saying Afghanistan has a constitution, national security force and stable institutions which facilitate the country to go ahead.
Nevertheless, Karzai went on to say, "If American wants to remain our friend, should behave as friend and not as rival." He also defended the release of prisoners from the Bagram detention centre run by the US military, saying innocent people were put there and his government would not allow that place to become a prison of Afghans.
Karzai also said that the upcoming presidential election would be held as scheduled April 5 this year, and the security forces will ensure security for the election process.