Hagel appeals for signing of security pact in Afghanistan

Hagel appeals for signing of security pact in Afghanistan
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (2nd R) is greeted by military personnel after arriving at International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters in Kabul December 7, 2013.

KABUL - Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel will visit US troops in Afghanistan on Sunday after appealing to Kabul to sign a long-delayed security accord allowing NATO forces to stay in the country after 2014.

Hagel will travel outside the Afghan capital to greet American troops in the field a day after tensions between Washington and Afghan President Hamid Karzai over the stalled security pact were on full public display.

Meetings with the often mercurial Karzai have been customary over the years for Pentagon chiefs but Hagel said Saturday after his arrival that he had no plans to meet the Afghan president during his weekend visit.

As President Barack Obama's top national security adviser, Susan Rice, and top diplomat, John Kerry, had already had frank discussions with Karzai urging him to sign the security agreement, Hagel said there was no point in him merely repeating the US position.

"There's not much I can add in a meeting with President Karzai to what's already been said," he said.

Hagel did meet the Afghan defence minister, who assured him the security agreement would be signed in "a timely manner".

Karzai was scheduled to travel to Tehran on Sunday for talks with Iran, officials said.

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