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Karzai Says U.S. Must Respect Kabul's Sovereignty

Hamid Karzai (second from left) made his comments while attending a summit with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left), Turkish President Abdullah Gul (second from right) and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (right).
Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the release of prisoners by Afghan authorities considered by the United States to pose a security threat was "of no concern" to Washington.

Earlier on February 13, the Afghan government released 65 detainees, who the U.S. military had said should be tried in Afghan courts.

Speaking later the same day in Ankara, at the end of a three-way summit with Pakistani and Turkish leaders, Karzai said the United States should respect Afghanistan's sovereign right to make decisions.

"Afghanistan is a sovereign country. If the Afghan judicial authorities decide to release a prisoner, it is of no concern to the U.S. and should be of no concern to the U.S.," Karzai said.

"And I hope that the United States will stop harassing Afghanistan's procedures and judicial authority; and I hope that the United States will now begin to respect Afghan sovereignty."

The suspected militants were freed on the morning of February 13 from Bagram prison, which was placed under Afghan authority last year.

Following the releases, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a statement saying that the move was "deeply regrettable" and that the Afghan government "bears responsibility for the results of its decision."

The statement urged Afghan authorities "to make every effort to ensure that those released do not commit new acts of violence and terror."

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen also criticized the releases as a setback to security and the rule of law in Afghanistan.

He said the decision appeared to have been "based on political calculations" and called on Afghan authorities to make sure those released do not pose a further threat.

Bagram prison, 50 kilometers north of Kabul, had been the main detention center housing Taliban and other suspected insurgents captured by coalition forces.

Observers say the Afghan government hopes that the releases can help revive peace talks with the Taliban, who were ousted from power in 2001.

However, the decision appear to be straining even further Kabul's relations with Washington as international troops prepare to leave the country by the end of the year.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP