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Afghanistan, U.S. Sign Prisons Transfer Deal


The main U.S.-run prison in Afghanistan is the Parwan detention facility, located next to the Bagram military base near the capital, Kabul, where unrest broke out last month over some burned Korans.
Afghan and U.S. officials have signed an agreement on the transfer of U.S.-run detention facilities in Afghanistan to Afghan authorities.

Under the memorandum of understanding signed in Kabul, control over the main U.S.-run prison -- the Parwan detention facility next to the Bagram military base near the capital -- will be handed over gradually to Afghan authorities within six months.

The agreement was signed by Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and U.S. General John Allen, the commanbder of NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

No further details about the accord were immediately available.

The handover issue has been a sticking point in negotiations on a long-term strategic partnership agreement between the U.S. and Afghan governments.

Allen, speaking at the signing ceremony, said the agreement on the transfer of Parwan was "a step forward" on the negotiations on the strategic partnership.

"Today sets in motion the orderly transfer of the detention facility at Parwan, a process that we have been pursuing for some time," Allen said. "This is an important step. It is a step forward in our strategic partnership negotiations."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly said he wants all detainees in U.S.-run prisons immediately handed over to Afghan control.

Parwan prison holds about 3,000 detainees, most of them Afghans.

In early January, Karzai gave the U.S. military a one-month deadline to hand over the prison. When that was missed, he gave the United States another month, making the deadline March 10.

The United States previously has said it does not believe the Afghan government is ready yet to take over running the detention center.

The strategic partnership agreement, which Afghanistan and the United States have been discussing for more than a year, will set the framework for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan beyond 2014, when the last foreign combat troops are due to leave the country.

The deal is expected to provide an agreement in principle addressing the long-term presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the 2014 withdrawal.

The Afghan government has said that before it can sign the agreement, it also wants the United States and NATO to agree to stop carrying out night raids on Afghan homes. The U.S. military has said that such raids are critical in the fight against insurgents.

The Obama administration reportedly has been hoping to conclude an agreement with the Afghan government before a meeting of NATO leaders in Chicago in May.

The talks on the Afghan-U.S. strategic deal have also been complicated by tensions over the burning last month of copies of the Koran, the Muslim holy book, by U.S. personnel at the Bagram military base.

The incinerations -- which U.S. officials say were a mistake -- sparked six days of violent anti-American protests in which more than 30 people were killed, and led to an apology from President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials.

With Reuters, AP, and AFP reporting

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