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Karzai accuses US of cutting Afghanistan military supplies Afghan president suggests poll delay

KABUL, Dec 2, (Agencies): Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused his US ally on Sunday of withholding military supplies to press him to sign a bilateral security deal that will shape the US military presence after most foreign troops leave in 2014. Washington, which swiftly denied the assertion, has said that unless the pact is signed promptly, it could pull out most of its troops, as it did in Iraq two years ago. “The cutting of fuel supplies and support services to the Afghan army and police is being used as a means of pressure to ensure Afghanistan ... signs the Bilateral Security Agreement,” a statement from Karzai’s palace said. Karzai said last week he might refuse to sign the deal until after Afghanistan’s presidential election in April 2014.

US officials said logistical problems in Pakistan might have given rise to the alleged delays in deliveries. “There has been no stoppage in the delivery of requested fuel and we continue to process all orders as soon as they are received,” the NATO-led force in Afghanistan said in a statement. Karzai’s relationship with the United States has worsened since he invited thousands of elders to vote on the security deal last week and then ignored their advice, which was to sign it promptly. Meanwhile, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee has strong words about Afghanistan’s president for refusing to sign an agreement governing the future of the American troop presence in his country. Sen Dianne Feinstein says she thinks Hamid Karzai “is such a cipher.” The California Democrat tells CNN’s “State of the Union” that Karzai is “so much the victim of what thought occurs to him right at the moment based on some anger that he feels about something that may not even be related.” Karzai says he’ll leave the matter to the next president after April elections.

The US has said it will plan to withdraw all troops after 2014 if he doesn’t sign promptly, and a signed deal is needed to enable US troops to train Afghan forces. In other news, Karzai has suggested delaying April elections to avoid heavy snow, organisers said, an idea that will rattle the United States and critics who fear he may be trying to drag out his second and final term. Karzai is barred by the constitution from running for a third term and has so far refrained from backing any of the candidates, although he is widely expected to support his elder brother Qayum, seen as one of the front runners. But Karzai has also refused to sign a pact that would keep thousands of US troops in Afghanistan after next year when most international troops pull out. He has said the agreement shouldn’t be signed until after the election, which some say illustrates his reluctance to step out of the limelight. “Regarding the weather, there have been concerns,” the chairman of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), Yousof Nooristani, told the upper house of parliament on Sunday. “Even the president has suggested we could make changes to this (the election date) because he received complaints from the people. I told him we couldn’t because the date is set, based on the constitution and electoral law.” The proposal was raised after government officials said snow blocking roads in their provinces could prevent voters from reaching polling stations.

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