Kabul: Afghan territory should not be used in a proxy war between the United States and Iran, President Hamid Karzai said after the Islamic republic captured a US drone.
   
Karzai was speaking in Kabul after an hour-long meeting with US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, who nevertheless said the US would continue to pursue "important intelligence operations".
   
The bat-winged RQ-170 Sentinel, a stealth drone designed to evade radar for surveillance flights, was launched from Afghanistan on a CIA spying mission when it went missing, US officials have said.
   
"Afghanistan should maintain and has maintained a very friendly relationship with Iran so we don't want to be involved in any adversarial relation between Iran and the US," Karzai said.
   
"Afghanistan wishes that its sovereignty and territorial integrity is not used one against the other."
   
But Panetta said such intelligence operations would continue.
   
"Those are operations that I will not discuss publicly, other than to say that part of our efforts to defend this country and to defend our country involves important intelligence operations which will continue to pursue," he said.
   
Afghanistan has long been used as a pawn in battles between other nations, including the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and suicide attacks on Shiites on December 6 which killed at least 84 people threatened to open up another divide.
   
The drone episode has handed Iran a propaganda coup and Iranian state television has shown images of a robotic aircraft that experts say resembles the Sentinel.
   
Kabul is negotiating a strategic partnership deal with Washington which will define the terms of the US military presence in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of combat troops in 2014.
     
And Karzai has said a condition of the deal will be that the US does not use its territory against its enemies in the region.
   
But Iran has voiced its objections to the continued presence of international forces in Afghanistan after NATO combat troops pull out in 2014.

(Agencies)