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John Kerry meets Karzai, praises plans for 'safe' Afghan elections

Associated Press
Mar 26, 2013 at 11:35am IST

Kabul: US Secretary of State John Kerry and Afghan President Hamid Karzai made a show of unity on Monday, shortly after the US military ceded control of its last detention facility in Afghanistan, ending a longstanding irritant in relations between the two countries.

Kerry, in Afghanistan for an unannounced visit, said he and Karzai were "on the same page" when it comes to peace talks with the Taliban. Karzai had infuriated US officials by accusing Washington of colluding with Taliban insurgents to keep Afghanistan weak even as the Obama administration presses ahead with plans to hand off security responsibility to Afghan forces and end NATO's combat mission by the end of next year. But Kerry told a joint news conference that "I am confident (Karzai) does not believe the US has any interest except to see the Taliban come to the table to make peace."

ALSO SEE Kerry in Afghanistan to prod Karzai on future ties

"So we're on the same page. I don't think there is any disagreement between us and I am comfortable with his explanation," Kerry said. For his part, Karzai said "today was a very good day," citing the turnover of the detention facility at the US-run Bagram military base north of Kabul.

Kerry meets Karzai, praises plans for Afghan elections

Kerry also planned to meet with civic leaders and others to discuss continued US assistance to the country.

The two spoke at a joint news conference during which Kerry also praised what he said was Afghanistan's commitment to "safe, secure" and transparent elections, scheduled for April 2014.

During Kerry's 24-hour visit to the country his sixth since President Barack Obama became president but his first as Obama's secretary of State, Kerry also planned to meet with civic leaders and others to discuss continued US assistance to the country and how to wean it from such aid as the international military operation winds down, and upcoming national elections.

US officials accompanying Kerry said he did not plan to lecture Karzai on his earlier rhetoric, which the US had seen as jeopardising progress in the war against extremism.

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