World Bulletin / News Desk
Afghan President Hamid Karzai asserted on Thursday that Afghanistan's close allies and neighbors – excluding Iran – supported a proposed Afghanistan-US security deal.
"Today is a very important national day for Afghanistan," Karzai said at the opening ceremony of the Loya Jirga, or "Grand Assembly."
"You are here only for one reason to talk about, and that is the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement [with the US]," he added.
Some 2,500 tribal leaders, academics, lawmakers, senators, religious scholars and community representatives will huddle together for four days to discuss the proposal's pros and cons.
The three issues related to the proposed deal that are expected to be the most contentious have to do with legal jurisdiction, unilateral US operations inside Afghan territory, and foreign threats to Afghanistan's sovereignty, currently classified as acts of "aggression."
"I have told the American leaders from the beginning that 'I cannot decide the legal immunity issue with you,' and that [this] can be decided by our tribal leaders and academics in Loya Jirga," Karzai said.
Under the Afghan constitution, the president has the right to convene a Loya Jirga to discuss major national or international issues before providing him with its recommendations.
Karzai has asked Jirga participants to carefully read the text of the proposed agreement before issuing its decisions.
But he assured them that the proposed security deal with the US enjoyed wide support.
"I have consulted with Russia, China and India at first, and they supported the signing of the security agreement with the US," Karazai said.
He added that Iran clearly opposed the deal, while Pakistan, Turkey and a number of other Muslim countries believed the deal to be in Afghanistan's best interest.
If signed, the deal will allow the long-term presence of US troops in the country despite next year's scheduled withdrawal of all US-led foreign forces.
Currently, some 52,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan. The US would like to retain nearly 10,000 of these beyond 2014.
If the bilateral security agreement is not signed, however, all US troops would be obliged to depart the country next year.
It is the fifth Loya Jirga to be convened in Afghanistan since a US-led coalition ousted the ruling Taliban regime in 2001.
An emergency Jirga held in the summer of 2002 elected Karzai as president of the interim administration. In December 2003, Jirga members wrote the national constitution.
And in 2007, tribal leaders and various representatives from Afghanistan and Pakistan convened a joint Jirga aimed at bolstering cooperation and promoting peace in the two countries.
The Loya Jirga met again in 2012 to discuss a proposed Afghan-US strategic partnership agreement.Last Mod: 21 Kasım 2013, 13:19