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Karzai warns against 'intimidation' on US deal

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday shrugged off U.S. talk of a total military withdrawal from Afghanistan if he didn't sign a security agreement as brinkmanship and said he wouldn't back down on his conditions for the deal.

Karzai was in New Delhi in a burst of regional diplomacy as his ties with Washington have come under renewed strain over his refusal to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that will shape U.S. military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 when most international troops will leave.

He told reporters that the United States would have to stop the practice of raiding Afghan homes and help restart a peace process with the Taliban as necessary conditions for the security pact.

"We do believe that the BSA is in the interest of Afghanistan and the Afghan people have given their approval. But we also believe that protection of Afghan homes and the launch of a peace process are absolute pre-requisites," he said.

If Karzai doesn't sign the deal, Washington says it will have to withdraw its entire force of some 44,500 troops by the end of 2014. 

The complete withdrawal, called the "zero option", would be similar to the pull-out of U.S. troops from Iraq two years ago. 

"I don't think America is thinking of the zero option , its brinkmanship they play with us, and even if they did, then come what may," the Afghan leader said.

U.S. officials have appeared exasperated by Karzai's stance on the security agreement, which they say is needed to help them plan a future mission that will assist Afghan forces fight militants and that will allow for future aid crucial for the impoverished nation.

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