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Kerry, Karzai Report Partial Security Deal

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, shortly after his October 11 arrival in Kabul
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Afghan President Hamid Karzai have held a second day of talks focusing on a new security pact.

After meeting on October 12 in Kabul, Kerry and Karzai said a partial deal had been reached but that differences remained.

Kerry said the two sides remain divided over whether U.S. soldiers remaining in Afghanistan after foreign troops leave in 2014 will have immunity, as Washington wants but Kabul has opposed.

"We need to say that if the issue of jurisdiction cannot be resolved, then unfortunately there cannot be a bilateral security agreement. So we hope that will be resolved and it is up to the Afghan people as it should be," Kerry told reporters in the Afghan capital.

Karzai said the question of whether Afghanistan would be able to try U.S. citizens for crimes allegedly committed on its territory could not be decided by his government.

"The issue of jurisdiction is one such issue that is beyond the authority of the Afghan government and it is only and entirely up to the Afghan people to decide upon through two mechanisms -- one is the traditional Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) of Afghanistan and the second is the constitutional mechanism, which is the Afghan parliament."

Sources have been quoted as saying the Afghan government rejected an initial U.S. proposal on immunity at the start of the year and it has been a sticking point ever since. The failure to reach a deal on the Bilateral Security Agreement could prompt Washington to pull all its troops out after 2014, in an outcome known as the "zero option."

Karzai also said the talks had focused on protecting Afghan sovereignty and that major differences had been resolved.

"In the security pact we have reached an agreement on national sovereignty, the prevention of civilian casualties, clarified the definition of aggression and the stopping of independent operations by foreign troops," Karzai said.

Karzai said the U.S. snatching of a senior Pakistani Taliban commander -- Latif Mehsud -- was an example of the kind of action that Afghanistan wanted to avoid.

Kerry attributed the complaint to a misunderstanding.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP