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Iraq urges Afghan president to make U.S. security deal

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- With a long-term security deal stalled between the United States and Afghanistan, officials said support for an accord has come from an unlikely place: Iraq.

Iraq's longtime foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, contacted Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently and encouraged the reticent leader to sign a deal to maintain an American military presence in the country. Citing the morass of sectarian violence that's returned to much of Iraq in the years since the two countries failed to reach a deal due to domestic political pressure to end American military and security presence there, Zebari offered up Baghdad as a cautionary tale.

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"Don't be under the illusion that no matter what you do the Americans are here to stay," the New York Times quoted Zebari as telling Karzai. "People used to say that about the American presence in Iraq, too. But they were eager to leave, and they will be eager to leave your country as well."

Afghan leaders attending an annual summit said they were shocked when Karzai announced he intended to put off making a decision on a deal to maintain an American military presence after 2014 -- and that the deal as presented now was not in Afghanistan's best interests.

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Karzai has expressed profound distrust in American allies recently, including in an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde last week.

"Even if they are not bluffing [about withdrawal], we will not give in to the pressure to sign if our requirements are not fulfilled," he said. "What I am hearing these days, and what I have already heard, is typical of colonial exploitation."

Zebari said lessons could be learned from the Iraqi experience. Two years after a security deal collapsed, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki traveled to Washington in November to seek security help from the American military.

"Two years after the troop withdrawal, because of the rise of violence, we went back to Washington and asked them for continued support and military help," Zebari said. "One should really draw from that conclusion."

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