Talks bog down on U.s.-afghan agree­ment

The Washington Times Daily - - World -

KABUL | Ne­go­ti­a­tions over a long-term U.S. mil­i­tary pres­ence in Afghanistan have bogged down over is­sues of de­tainees, night raids and quar­rels within the Afghan pres­i­dent’s in­ner cir­cle, throw­ing the whole deal into ques­tion.

The ar­range­ment would for­mal­ize a U.S. role af­ter NATO’S planned pull­out in 2014. The dead­lock re­flects grow­ing hos­til­ity on the part of the Afghan lead­er­ship and in­creas­ing ex­as­per­a­tion in Washington.

Trust has eroded in re­cent days with anti-amer­i­can protests over Ko­ran burn­ings at a U.S. base, a ris­ing num­ber of U.S. troops gunned down by Afghan se­cu­rity forces and elec­tion-year de­mands to bring the troops home.

Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai met Mon­day evening with U.S. Am­bas­sador Ryan Crocker, but a Karzai spokesman did not re­turn phone calls re­quest­ing de­tails about their talks.

Mr. Karzai has sched­uled a news con­fer­ence for Tues­day. It is un­clear whether he will dis­cuss the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

U.S. Em­bassy spokesman Gavin Sund­wall would not dis­close any in­for­ma­tion about the meet­ing. rally ended, po­lice or­dered the demon­stra­tors to dis­perse.

“I’m not leav­ing un­til our de­mands are met,” said Gleb Gladki, an ac­tivist from the lib­eral Yabloko party. “I’m not afraid. What should I be afraid of?”

“You are vi­o­lat­ing the laws of the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion,” Ilya Pono­maryov, an op­po­si­tion mem­ber of par­lia­ment, shouted at po­lice. “Stop now.”

Po­lice linked arms and swept through the crowd, push­ing pro­test­ers out of the square and de­tain­ing those who re­sisted. A num­ber of peo­ple fell to the ground, as po­lice forced their way to­ward foun­tains where protest lead­ers were stand­ing.

Among those de­tained were blog­ger and op­po­si­tion leader Alexei Navalny and Left Front Party leader Sergei Udaltsov.

“Hi, ev­ery­one, from the po­lice truck,” Mr. Navalny wrote in his Twit­ter mi­croblog af­ter his ar­rest.

Mr. Pono­maryov told re­porters af­ter the protest that an es­ti­mated 1,000 peo­ple were ar­rested, in­clud­ing dozens who tried to block a main street lead­ing to Red Square.

Po­lice es­ti­mated the crowd at 14,000, but or­ga­niz­ers said the rally drew more than 20,000.

The demon­stra­tions erupted a day af­ter Mr. Putin claimed vic­tory in an elec­tion that in­ter­na­tional mon­i­tors said was marred by ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties. Of­fi­cial re­turns showed that Mr. Putin gained about 64 per­cent of the vote to win a third term as pres­i­dent.

He was elected to two four-year terms from 2000 to 2008 and stepped down to serve as prime min­is­ter be­cause the con­sti­tu­tion pro­hib­ited him from seek­ing a third con­sec­u­tive term. His new term is for six years be­cause of a change in the elec­tion laws.

He near­est ri­val in the elec­tion, Com­mu­nist Party chief Gen­nady Zyuganov, won al­most 18 per­cent.

Tonino Pic­ula, the head of the ob­server mis­sion from the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Se­cu­rity and Co­op­er­a­tion in Europe, said the re­sult of the elec­tion was never in doubt and that vot­ers had no gen­uine choice.

“The point of elec­tions is that the out­come should be un­cer­tain. This was not the case in Rus­sia,” he said.

Rus­sian elec­tion ob­servers noted nu­mer­ous re­ports of so-called “carousel vot­ing,” in which bus­loads of vot­ers are driven to dif­fer­ent vot­ing sites to cast mul­ti­ple bal­lots.

Protest lead­ers have called for an­other rally in down­town Moscow on Satur­day.

“Our votes were stolen,” said Dmitry Gr­ishin, a stu­dent. “And we have to keep com­ing out on the streets.”

At­ten­dance at Mon­day’s rally was markedly down from week­end protests in De­cem­ber and Fe­bru­ary, when crowds es­ti­mated at 100,000 demon­strated against par­lia­men­tary elec­tions also crit­i­cized as fraud­u­lent.

About 100 peo­ple were ar­rested at an­other rally in Moscow on Mon­day, when ac­tivists of the rad­i­cal op­po­si­tion group the Other Rus­sia demon­strated near the of­fice of the elec­toral com­mit­tee.

Rus­sia’s elec­tion chief, Vladimir Churov, is a loyal Krem­lin fig­ure who once said, “My first rule is that Putin is al­ways right.”

About 300 peo­ple were ar­rested at an anti-putin rally in St. Peters­burg, Rus­sia’s sec­ond-largest city.

In Washington, the State Depart­ment is­sued a muted re­sponse, pledg­ing to work with the “pres­i­dent-elect” as soon as the elec­tion re­sults are cer­ti­fied. How­ever, the depart­ment did not men­tion Mr. Putin by name or of­fer con­grat­u­la­tions to him.

The depart­ment urged Moscow to “con­duct an in­de­pen­dent, cred­i­ble in­ves­ti­ga­tion of all re­ported elec­toral vi­o­la­tions,” and said the United States was en­cour­aged by the level of par­tic­i­pa­tion in the elec­tion.

“The num­ber of Rus­sian elec­tion ob­servers who mon­i­tored this vote is un­prece­dented and a sign that Rus­sian so­ci­ety seeks to par­tic­i­pate in the im­prove­ment of Rus­sia’s demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions,” the state­ment read.

Sen. John Mccain, a critic of the Rus­sian leader, mocked Mr. Putin in a Twit­ter mes­sage, in which he re­ferred to videos Sun­day night of the Rus­sian leader with tears in his eyes as he ad­dressed sup­port­ers.

“Dear Vlad, Sur­prise! Sur­prise! You won,” the Ari­zona Re­pub­li­can said. “The Rus­sian peo­ple are cry­ing, too.”

Guy Tay­lor con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle, which is based in part on wire ser­vice re­ports.

Rus­sian po­lice de­tain op­po­si­tion ac­tivists Mon­day in St. Peters­burg. More than 100 were ar­rested in Rus­sia’s sec­ond- largest city, where about 2,000 gath­ered to protest re­sults of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

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