Karzai lashes out at NATO forces

Afghan President Hamid Karzai criticized NATO and U.S.-led forces on Saturday for military operations that killed more than 90 civilians in the last 10 days in Afghanistan.

Faced with growing public anger over civilian deaths in battle zones,Afghan presidentHamid Karzaicriticized on Saturday what he called"careless operations" by NATO as it targetssuspected Taliban militants.

Karzai denounced the insurgentsfor killing civilians, but directedmost of his anger towardNATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) as he spoke to reporters in Kabul.

Militaryactions by international forces have led to the deaths of more than 90 civilians in the last 10 days.

Karzai called onISAFto take greater care beforeengaging insurgents.

"We are thankful for their help to Afghanistan, but that does not mean that Afghan lives have no value. Afghan life is not cheap and it should not be treated as such," the Afghan leader said.

The president was speaking a day after NATO launched an investigation into an air strike in the Afghan province of Helmand in which 25 civilians were killed.

NATO said the insurgents had taken cover among civilians in a village 14 kilometres northeast of the town of Gereshk after attacking a convoy of troops from the ISAF.

The foreign troops responded with small arms fire and an air strike on a walled compound in the village.

About 20 insurgents were killed, a police official said.

Karzai did not comment directly on the battle, but said his government did not want to seeany more military operations without being consulted.

"From now onwards they have to work the way we ask them to work in here," he said.

The criticismdrew a contrite response fromISAFspokesman Nick Lunt, who saidNATO needs "to do better" and thatKarzai has a right to be"angry over the scale of civilians casualties in the last few days.

"Every single ISAF commander knows and says that we can do our job here if we have the consent of the people. But unlike the Taliban, we do not set out to cause civilian casualties, and that is a critical difference," Lunt said.

Meanwhile on Saturday, NATO said its forces killed 60 insurgents near the border with Pakistan.

Pakistan's army said a rocket fired during the battle hit a house on its territory, killing nine civilians. It denied that any insurgents had crossed the frontier.