Afghan leader says peace needed before US security deal

Afghan president Hamid Karzai saidon Sunday the United States needed to bring peace to Afghanistanbefore he would sign a security deal which will enableWashington to keep troops in the country beyond next year.

"If there is no peace then this agreement will bringmisfortune to Afghanistan," Karzai said in his closing remarksto the Loya Jirga assembly of elders and dignitaries. "Peace isour precondition. America should bring us peace and then we willsign it."

The president did not elaborate, but has previously saidthat a free and fair election is needed to guarantee peace inthe country.

The Loya Jirga was convened to decide on the pact, butKarzai cast the entire process in doubt by saying he wouldrefuse to sign it until after a presidential election scheduledfor April 2014. The United States has repeatedly said it cannotwait beyond the end of this year.
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