Afghanistan to keep pressure on US to free prisoners

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday his government was continuing to press the United States to release Afghan nationals being held in the US Guantanamo facility.

"We want the return of those prisoners as soon as possible," Karzai told a news conference as he concluded a one-day visit to Denmark.

"This is an issue that we have been engaged in for a long time with the US and UN system," Karzai said, adding that he was following the news of the current hunger strike among prisoners at Guantanamo Bay where some 100 detainees are reported to be refusing food.

"I hope it will be resolved soon and I hope that the US government will apply all the humanitarian considerations," he said.

Karzai was in the Danish capital to sign a new strategic partnership agreement between Afghanistan and Denmark, whose 700 battle troops are to be withdrawn from Afghanistan in 2014.

"The agreement that we have signed is a token of Denmark's long-term commitment to Afghanistan and it sends a clear signal to the Afghan people that we will remain engaged after 2014," Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said.

She said that apart from outlining Denmark's non-battle commitment to help Afghanistan after 2014, the agreement also underlined the reforms and steps the Afghan government had committed to.

"These are in areas such as good governance, human rights, including particularly women's rights, fighting corruption, education, economic growth, agriculture and developing rural areas," the prime minister said.

Karzai also touched briefly on the issue of immunity from prosecution for Danish soldiers after Denmark has withdrawn from Afghanistan.

"It is a subject between Afghanistan and NATO as a whole to discuss, so the arrangement that will be made in this regard with Denmark will be within the ambit of our agreement with NATO," Karzai said.

On Pakistan, Karzai said he hoped that border clashes between Pakistani and Afghan forces around the Durand Line would cease, but made it clear that Afghanistan would not allow Pakistani troops on its territory.

"I hope the clashes will not escalate. Having said that, the Afghan government will do its utmost to protect the Line and to make sure that no foreign military installations or checkpoints are present on the Afghan side of the line," Karzai said, without elaborating.

Clashes erupted between Pakistani and Afghan forces on Wednesday night in Nangahar Province, with one Afghan officer reported dead and several others reported injured.