Afghan President Hamid Karzai seems to have stiffened his resolve not to sign a security pact with Washington, saying the US should leave the country unless it can restart peace talks with the Taliban.
Mr Karzai told a news conference, "In exchange for this agreement, we want peace for the people of Afghanistan. Otherwise, it's better for them to leave and our country will find its own way."
He said pressing ahead with talks with the Taliban was critical to ensure that Afghanistan was not left with a weak central government.
"Starting peace talks is a condition because we want to be confident that after the signing of the security agreement, Afghanistan will not be divided into fiefdoms," the president added.