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Karzai steps up Pakistan accusations Islamabad denies assisting Taleban

KABUL, Afghanistan, March 30, (AP): In a phone call with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Hamid Karzai accused Pakistan of being behind a recent series of attacks and of blocking his government from striking a peace deal with the Taliban, the Afghan president’s office said Sunday. Karzai routinely makes such accusations against Islamabad, but his tone in recent days has been particularly pointed and direct.

They come after run of three attacks in five days in the capital Kabul, the latest a Saturday machinegun and rocket-propelled grenade barrage of the country’s electoral commission ahead of general elections set for next week. Karzai told Kerry on Saturday the attacks were complex in nature and stage-managed by “foreign intelligence agencies,” a reference to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence. He also told Kerry that he did not accept US arguments that it had no influence “over countries that support terrorism,” and said US refusal to go after the Pakistani intelligence agency could further hurt US relations with Afghanistan.

The Taleban have claimed responsibility for the recent violence in Kabul. Islamabad has a long and complicated relationship with the group, but few analysts accept Karzai’s allegations that Pakistani intelligence agencies and not the Taleban are staging attacks. Pakistan denies that it is assisting the Taliban. Karzai is not allowed to run for re-election in the April 5 ballot, as he is barred by the constitution from seeking a third term in office. He is seen as positioning himself for life after the presidency, depicting himself as a tough-speaking nationalist. Karzai has also refused to sign a Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States which would allow for the US and NATO to leave behind a residual force of about 12,000 soldiers after the final withdrawal of international combat troops takes place at the end of this year.

Despite widespread support for the agreement, Karzai says he first wants the US to move forward with a peace pact with the Taliban, presumably by putting pressure on neighbor Pakistan. During the telephone conversation, according to the Afghan presidency, Karzai told Kerry that the Taleban were willing to talk to his High Peace Council, an 80- member body tasked by the president to spearhead reconciliation with his armed opposition, but Pakistan was preventing them. The presidency did not provide further details

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