NATO has signed a deal with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to remove equipment through their territories as it winds down its operations in Afghanistan, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said.

"We reached agreement on reverse transit from Afghanistan with three Central Asian partners: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan," Rasmussen said at a news conference on Monday.

"These agreements will give us a range of new options and the robust and flexible transport network we need," he said, without offering more detail on the accords.

Transit routes for the withdrawal are proving a major problem for the US-led ISAF operation in Afghanistan, with massive amounts of materiel dispatched in the decade-long war to be pulled out by the end-2014 deadline from a country ringed by high mountain passes.

The Brussels-headquartered alliance is also discussing with Russia the possibility of using Vostochny airport near Ulyanovsk, 900km east of Moscow, as a transit centre for non-lethal equipment from Afghanistan.

Washington, meanwhile, continues to press Pakistan to reopen routes blocked six months ago in retaliation for the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers killed by mistake by US strikes on a border post.

"I still hope that a solution can be found in the very near future," Rasmussen said.

Source: Agencies