Afghan president rejects pressure over US deal

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Photo - Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014. Karzai said he will not sign a security pact with the United States unless Washington and Pakistan launch a peace process with Taliban insurgents. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014. Karzai said he will not sign a security pact with the United States unless Washington and Pakistan launch a peace process with Taliban insurgents. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday that "no pressure, no threats and no psychological war" will force him to sign a U.S. deal allowing foreign forces to remain in the country past a planned withdrawal at the end of this year.

The Bilateral Security Agreement would allow about 10,000 U.S. troops and about 6,000 from allied nations to remain in Afghanistan past 2014, largely to help train Afghanistan security forces. But Karzai repeatedly has declined to sign the document, instead saying he wants to wait to sign it after the country elects his successor in the coming April 5 presidential election.

The U.S. had wanted the deal to be signed by Dec. 31 because it needs time to prepare to keep thousands of U.S. troops in the country for up to a decade. NATO allies also have said they won't stay if the Americans pull out.

Karzai's refusal comes as he's increasingly ramped up his anti-American rhetoric in speeches.

"Afghanistan will never be ready to sign anything under pressure, never Afghanistan will be ready to sign anything under pressure," Karzai told journalists Saturday at a news conference. "No pressure, no threats and no psychological war against our people will force us to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement."

Karzai also repeated his demand for the U.S. to jumpstart peace talks with the Taliban as a condition for him signing the agreement. An American effort to get them going through intermediaries in Qatar collapsed last summer. The Taliban have refused to talk directly with Karzai, his government or its representatives.

Separately, Karzai criticized a detention facility on the U.S.-run Bagram Air Field north of Kabul. Karzai referred to Bagram as a "Taliban-producing factory" where he said innocent Afghans are tortured into hating their country. He also said he'd been trying to close it for some six years.

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