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Karzai: U.S. drone strike killed child

KABUL -- President Hamid Karzai accused the United States on Thursday of launching a drone strike that killed a 2-year-old child and vowed not to sign a long-term security agreement if similar attacks continue.

In a statement, Karzai said a suspected U.S. "pilot-less aircraft" fired into a house shortly before noon in Helmand province, killing the child and wounding two women. He said the information was relayed to him by Mohammad Naem, the Helmand governor.

Spokesmen for the U.S.-led coalition did not respond to requests for comment. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul referred questions to the international coalition.

Although few details were available Thursday night, the allegations are likely to stoke tension over Karzai's reluctance to endorse a plan that would allow several thousand U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014.

After a year of negotiations, the Obama administration thought it had completed an agreement with Karzai last week to allow up to 15,000 foreign troops to stay in Afghanistan to train and assist its military.

But Karzai has been reluctant to sign it, saying he first wants assurances that the United States won't meddle in Afghan elections next year, will cease military raids on Afghan homes, and will help start peace talks between Karzai's government and Taliban insurgents. For the latter, he has demanded that the United States release 17 Afghan prisoners from the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Now, Karzai has added a reduction of U.S. airstrikes to his list of demands.

"This attack shows that American forces are not respecting the life and safety of Afghan people's houses," he said in the statement. He added, "For years, our innocent people have become victims of the war under the name of terrorism, and they have had no safety in their homes."

Karzai said he will not sign the security agreement if such "oppressions by foreign forces continue."

It was unclear from his statement whether he was calling for an end of all drone strikes or just those attacks that target Afghans' homes.

The alleged death of the child comes one week after Karzai accused U.S. special forces of killing two Afghan civilians during a raid on a house in eastern Afghanistan. Karzai's assertion angered coalition commanders, who insisted that the men were "armed insurgents." They accused Karzai of using "allegations of civilian deaths for political purposes."

The Obama administration has said if the agreement is not signed by the end of the year, it will have no choice but to begin preparing for a full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan next year.

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