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Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that a possible security deal with the US would only be signed after presidential elections next year, to assure Washington's cooperation in the war-torn nation's polls.
About 2,500 Afghan elders and chieftains have gathered in Kabul to debate, approve or reject the bilateral security agreement (BSA) with Washington, which will govern the future US military role in Afghanistan.
Karzai told delegates that if they approved the BSA and it was passed by parliament, it would only be signed "when our elections are conducted, correctly and with dignity".
"They (the US) should cooperate with us in this," Karzai said, referring to efforts to ensure a clean, fair election.
Afghanistan goes to the polls on April 5 to elect a successor to Karzai, who must step down after serving two terms, and a credible election is seen as important to the country's future stability.
Karzai has in the past accused the US of meddling in the 2009 election, which was marred by widespread fraud.
He gave a frank assessment of his often thorny relationship with Washington, his principal foreign backer, but said Afghanistan was not able to conduct the forthcoming elections without US cooperation.
"America does not trust me and I do not trust them. I have had struggles with them and they have spread propaganda against me," he said.
He backed the proposed pact, which will see up to 15,000 foreign troops remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014, as a chance to bring stability to the country after more than 30 years of war.
The text of the agreement being debated by the assembly was only agreed hours before it opened, following months of difficult negotiations.
It has been touted as vital to the country's future after 2014, when the bulk of NATO's 75,000 troops will pull out. The Taliban insurgency this year has reached levels of violence not seen since 2010, according to the United Nations.