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US backing no Afghan presidential hopeful.

WASHINGTON (PAN): The United States has not been supporting any particular candidate in Afghanistan's presidential elections due in April, a senior State Department official said on Wednesday, the day US special envoy James Dobbins arrived in Kabul.

"It's up to the Afghans to decide who will represent them in their elections," State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters in Washington at her daily news conference.

"That's the point of having elections. It's for the Afghans to decide that. The US doesn't take a position, doesn't endorse a candidate, doesn't endorse a party," she said.

She said the US believed that a peaceful and timely political transition through an inclusive and credible electoral process was critical for Afghan stability and democratic development.

About Dobbins's visit to Kabul, she informed one of the topics Ambassador Dobbins would primarily talk about was preparations for the 2014 elections and helping the Afghans continue making progress.

"We've been very clear that even after 2014, if we conclude a BSA with Afghanistan; we're open to keeping a small residual force there to carry out two specific and narrow missions, one of which is counterterrorism. Even as the war winds down, that's a top national security priority for us," Harf said.

Seeking an early inking of BSA, Harf said the deal had overwhelmingly been approved by the Afghan people through the Consultative Loya Jirga.

"So what we're focused on right now is working with Afghanistan to get this signed in a timely manner, to give the Afghan people the assurances they need, to give us and our partners the assurances we need going into planning for a post-2014 Afghanistan," she said.

Meanwhile Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said it was for the lawyers to decide as to who could sign the BSA between Afghanistan and the US.

"The issue of who has the authority to speak for the sovereign nation of Afghanistan, I suppose the lawyers can figure that out," he told a Pentagon news conference,.

"What we would be interested in, certainly as secretary of defense, is whatever document is agreed to has to go to their parliament for ratification, not unlike our Senate and a treaty," he said.

rm/ma

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Publication:Pajhwok Afghan News (Kabul, Afghanistan)
Geographic Code:9AFGH
Date:Dec 5, 2013
Words:380
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