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Afghan Assembly Backs U.S. Partnership

Kabul, 9 May 2005 (RFE/RL) -- More than 1,000 representatives gathering in a Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) have backed Afghan President Hamid Karzai's plans for a "strategic partnership" with the United States.

The assembly was held yesterday in Kabul.

Afghan government spokesman Jawed Ludin said that the representatives were "on the whole...very positive" with Karzai's proposed partnership with the United States.

Karzai is expected to discuss the issue of strategic partnership with the United States during his visit to Washington later in May.

Ludin said that Kabul has not asked Washington to establish permanent military bases in Afghanistan, as the strategic partnership has been widely understood to suggest, but rather the "people of Afghanistan consider it necessary to have a long-term presence of foreign troops in the country until Afghan security forces are able to stand on their own feet," dpa reported on 8 May.

Ludin did not elaborate on the expected duration of this presence.

The nature of Afghanistan's relationship with the United States has been widely discussed in the country's press.

A 7 May commentary in "Arman-e Melli" suggested that while foreign troops have "played a significant role" in maintaining peace and security in Afghanistan since the demise of the Taliban regime in late 2001, it "would be better" for Karzai to "raise the question of whether is it in the national interest" of Afghanistan to allow the United States to establish permanent military bases in the country.

Especially, the commentary added, with "elected representatives of the people in the parliament" scheduled to be elected in September.

Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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