Karzai travels to Europe

Jan. 25, 2012 at 7:15 AM

KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai traveled to Europe Wednesday amid assurances from France's foreign minister of no immediate withdrawal of its troops.

During his trip, Karzai would conclude a long-term strategic cooperation agreement with France, Italy and Britain, Khaama Press reported, quoting Afghan officials. Karzai is also scheduled to meet Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow to discuss economic and bilateral cooperation.

Karzai's European visit comes just days after an Afghan soldier opened fire on French soldiers in Afghanistan, killing four of them.

The incident led French President Nicolas Sarkozy to order suspension of all training and combat support operations until completion of a review of security for about 4,000 French troops, who are part of the NATO forces in Afghanistan. There was also concern France might speed up its troop withdrawal program, currently set to be completed by 2014.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, however, said Tuesday there will be no rush to get out of Afghanistan, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"We will not give in to panic," Juppe told Parliament, adding there must not be confusion between "an organized withdrawal and a rushed withdrawal."

However, it was not clear whether France's training and support program would resume soon.

The strategic partnership agreement Karzai would sign with France concerns its long-term plans for development and reconstruction assistance in Afghanistan, the report said.

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