CANBERRA - NATO still hopes to reopen transport supply routes to Afghanistan through neighboring Pakistan despite securing new transit deals with three Central Asian states, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Wednesday.

Pakistan banned trucks from carrying supplies to and from coalition troops in Afghanistan late last year in protest against a cross-border NATO air strike that inadvertently killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

On Monday, the United States withdrew its team of negotiators from six weeks of talks with Pakistan without a new deal on re-opening the supply routes in a sign of deepening tension between the two uneasy allies in the war on militancy.

Rasmussen said the NATO transit agreements with Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan would give NATO forces more flexibility ahead of the planed withdrawal of most foreign combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

"We want as many options as possible," Rasmussen told the National Press Club in the Australian capital, Canberra.

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