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Decision on immunity for U.S. troops by year-end: Karzai

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai pauses during remarks at Georgetown University's Gaston Hall in Washington January 11, 2013. REUTERS/Jo
Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai pauses during remarks at Georgetown University's Gaston Hall in Washington January 11, 2013. REUTERS/Jo

KABUL (Reuters) - A decision on immunity for U.S. troops staying in Afghanistan after the 2014 planned withdrawal will be made by the end of the year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Monday.

"The issue of immunity is under discussion (and) it is going to take eight to nine months before we reach agreement," Karzai told a news conference in the capital, Kabul, after returning from meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington.

The Afghan government rejected an initial U.S. proposal regarding the question of immunity and a second round of negotiations will take place this year in Kabul, he said.

Those negotiations could involve Afghanistan's Loya Jirga, a "grand assembly" of political and community leaders convened for issues of national importance, he added.

When asked if security would deteriorate in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the NATO-led force, Karzai replied: "By no means... Afghanistan will be more secure and a better place."

The Obama administration has been considering a residual force of between 3,000 and 9,000 troops in Afghanistan to conduct counterterrorism operations while providing training and assistance for Afghan forces. But the administration said last week it did not rule out a complete withdrawal after 2014.

The United States is insisting on immunity from prosecution for any U.S. troops that remain.

(Reporting By Hamid Shalizi, writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman and Dylan Welch; Editng by Robert Birsel)

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