Afghan parliament approves US strategic pact

Afghan parliament approves US strategic pact

Afghanistan's parliament today voted by an overwhelming majority to ratify a strategic partnership agreement with the United States signed earlier this month, lawmakers said.

"We voted with a majority in favour of the strategic pact," MP Shukria Essakhil told AFP.

"Only five MPs voted against it," she said, adding that around 190 lawmakers out of 249 were present for the open vote.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama paid a surprise visit to Kabul to sign a deal with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai that will cement post-war ties with Kabul after 2014, when NATO-led combat forces leave Afghanistan.

The pact foresees the possibility of American forces staying behind to train Afghan soldiers and pursue the remnants of Al-Qaeda but does not commit Washington to specific troop or funding levels.

The pact alarmed Afghanistan's neighbours including Iran, lawmaker Bakhtash Seyawash said.

"There is no doubt that Iran tried to influence the vote, but it didn't work", he said.
"There were accusations that Iran has tried to pay millions of dollars to MPs, that is why the parliament decided to hold an open vote," he added.

"Iran's efforts to sabotage the vote failed," he said.Relations between Afghanistan and Iran have been strained by Kabul's strategic pact with the United States, officials said, charging that Tehran had harassed Afghan diplomats in recent weeks.

Lawmakers had warned Iran to end its "interference" in Afghanistan's internal affairs over the strategic Afghan-US pact.

The deal, reached after months of painstaking negotiations, also states that the United States does not seek permanent military bases in Afghanistan.

The pact is now going to be sent to the Afghan senate where it is expected to be approved as early as next week, Seyawash said.

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