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U.S., Afghanistan reach agreement on prison transfer: Pentagon

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks at his news conference at the Pentagon in Washington March 15, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks at his news conference at the Pentagon in Washington March 15, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States agreed on Saturday to transfer to Afghan control a prison that houses insurgents and other dangerous inmates adjacent to Bagram airfield, the Pentagon said.

The agreement, reached after a week of intensified negotiations between U.S. and Afghan officials, calls for the formal transfer to take place on Monday and includes assurances that inmates who pose a danger to Afghans and international forces will continue to be detained under Afghan law.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with Afghan President Hamid Karzai by telephone about the Parwan Detention Facility, a point of increasing friction between the two countries.

"The secretary welcomed President Karzai's commitment that the transfer will be carried out in a way that assures the safety of the Afghan people and coalition forces by keeping dangerous individuals detained in a secure and humane manner in accordance with Afghan law," Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement.

The United States last year agreed to hand over responsibility for most of the more than 3,000 detainees at the prison to Afghanistan and held a transfer ceremony in September. But U.S. soldiers remained at the prison and controlled the area around it.

A formal ceremony transferring the last prisoners to Afghan custody collapsed at the last minute two weeks ago when General Joseph Dunford, the U.S. head of international forces in Afghanistan, called it off because Karzai rejected part of the transfer deal.

The collapse provoked an angry response from Karzai and embarrassed both sides as Hagel was starting his first official visit to the country as defense secretary.

Hagel pushed for intensified negotiations over the past to resolve the outstanding areas of disagreement.

(Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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