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Former Afghan president Mujaddedi elected grand assembly chairman
Thursday November 21, 2013 6:35 PM, IANS

Former Afghan president Sibghatullah Mujaddedi was Thursday chosen as the chairman of the four-day Loya Jirga, the country's traditional grand assembly of tribal chieftains, on the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US, Pajhwok News agency reported.

Over the past two years, Afghanistan and the US have held several rounds of tough negotiations on shaping a US military presence after 2014, when all foreign combat troops are scheduled to leave.

"Americans wants to have nine bases in Afghanistan and a limited number of 10,000 to 15,000 (security personnel) of America and other countries including Turkey and the United Arab Emirates will remain in Afghanistan after the 2014 withdrawal of NATO-led forces from the country," Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai was quoted as saying in his opening remarks.

Briefing the participants of the Jirga on the drafted BSA, the president said that "you are representatives of the people of Afghanistan; you read the document thoroughly and take your decision based on the larger national interest of Afghanistan".

In the 26-article document, titled 'Security and Defence Cooperation Agreement Between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan', the US has committed to respecting Afghanistan's independence, territorial integrity and the Afghan culture and has assured its military would not search Afghan houses except in certain circumstances.

President Karzai also noted that having relations with the international community is for the benefit of Afghanistan.

Following the president's address, the preparatory commission deputy head, Niamatullah Shahrani, proposed Mujaddedi as the jirga's chairman. The house unanimously approved the proposal.

Beginning amid extraordinary security arrangements, the consultative assembly is being attended by more than 2,500 people's representatives, tribal chieftains and 500 guests, including foreigners. The forum will announce its decision with regard to BSA Sunday afternoon.

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