Quran row: Afghan ministers cancel US trip as violence flares

Quran row: Afghan ministers cancel US trip as violence flares

 The Afghan ministers of defence and interior have cancelled their scheduled visit to the US this week to focus on controlling the spiralling tensions back home in the wake of the burning of Qurans at a US-run military base.

The Pentagon said in view of the recent developments in the country, particularly the killing of American servicemen last week, the senior officials have cancelled their trip.

"Senior Afghan officials, including the defence and interior ministers, are consulting this week with others in the Afghan government and Afghan religious leaders on how to protect ISAF personnel and quell violence in the country," Pentagon Press Secretary, George Little, said.

The incident of the burning of the holy book by NATO personnel at the Bagram airbase sparked widespread protest and violence in Afghanistan, resulting in over 30 deaths.

NATO pulled all its staff out of Afghan government ministries on Saturday after two US military advisors were shot dead in the interior ministry, in an attack claimed by the Taliban.

Several Afghan protesters have died in police firing since the protests broke out.
"The (Defence) Secretary understands why that's a priority and why they are unable to travel to Washington in the coming days. He looks forward to hosting them at the Pentagon in the near future," Little said.

The two Afghan ministers were scheduled to meet Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta, here on March 1.

On Saturday a UN compound came under attack as thousands of demonstrators assembled around it in Kunduz province, but they were driven back when police fired into the crowd.

The incident at the US-run military base forced a series of American officials, including US President Barack Obama to apologise to the Afghan people.