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Afghan-US prison handover agreement to be signed: officials

New deal augurs breakthrough for a contentious issue in Afghanistan.

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Afghan riot police stand guard during a protest against Quran desecration in Kabul on February 24, 2012. (Massoud Hossaini /AFP/Getty Images)

A breakthrough agreement transferring power over Afghan jails to the country's authorities is set to be signed by US and Afghan officials later today, reported The New York Times

The deal is hoped to settle what has long been a matter of contention between US and Afghan authorities, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai setting a looming deadline for handover of control of the largest US-run prison there, a facility holding 3,200 mostly Afghan detainees, said the Associated Press

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The Parwan prison, sometimes referred to Afghanistan's Guantanamo Bay, is also where Qurans were taken from and later burned at the adjoining Bagram air base in an incident that inflamed US-Afghan relations and may have been a contributing factor to the speedy resolution of the prison agreement, according to AP.

Nearly 30 people died in protests sparked by news of the holy books' destruction two weeks ago, an event that prompted strong criticism from Afghan authorities and a personal apology from US President Barack Obama

The Afghan Foreign Ministry announced that the memorandum of understanding is scheduled to be signed later today by Afghan Defense Minister General Abdul Rahim Wardak and the US General John Allen, the AP Reported

Officials however warned that last-minute negotiations were still taking place and nothing was certain until the signing itself took place, with one official saying the deal should have been signed yesterday, according to The New York Times

It was not immediately clear how long it would take to transfer operational control to Afghan security forces.

International forces are set to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/afghanistan/120309/afghan-us-prison-handover-agreement-be-signed-