Alliance insists it become security force

KOENIGSWINTER, Germany -- The northern alliance rejected the United Nations' proposal for an international security force for Afghanistan, insisting Wednesday that a security force -- theirs -- is already in place.

They also dampened expectations that the former king would head an interim administration.

Deciding the makeup of a security force, as well as an interim administration, are two difficult goals of a U.N.-sponsored meeting of four Afghan factions at a mountaintop manor outside Bonn.

"We don't feel a need for an outside force. There is security in place," the northern alliance's chief negotiator, Younus Qanooni, said at the second day of the talks.

If a security force is needed to enforce an agreement on an interim government, Qanooni said it should be comprised of Afghanistan's ethnic groups.

Neutral forces urged

The other groups at the conference -- supporters of ex-King Mohammad Zaher Shah, and two other exile groups based in Cyprus and Pakistan -- are pushing for a neutral, U.N.-backed force.

"Peace is not possible without neutral forces, and there are no neutral forces in Afghanistan. There are only northern alliance forces, and they are not neutral," said Anwar-ul-Haq Ahadi, a delegate of the Peshawar group that is based in Pakistan.

Zalmai Rassoul, whose group represents the former monarch, said that one option was to include Afghans in a wider security force. He said he hoped for "compromise."

The fall of Kabul to northern alliance forces has prompted international calls for the United Nations to oversee a political settlement to the long-running civil war in Afghanistan. A multinational force drawn mainly from moderate Muslim nations has been in planning, drawing troops from Turkey, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Jordan.

Eight foreign journalists have been killed in Afghanistan over the past several weeks since northern alliance forces began pushing the Taliban from most of the country.

Ex-king backed

U.N. officials and aid agencies have also expressed concern over unconfirmed reports that northern alliance forces have massacred hundreds of civilians and captured soldiers in their push against the Taliban.

Qanooni also dampened expectations that the former king would head an interim administration, saying he would have a role only if elected by a national council.

"We don't believe in the role of a person and personalities. We believe in a system, for example, the loya jirga," Qanooni said. "If the people agree through a loya jirga that the king has a role, of course," he said. Delegates from other factions at the conference indicated earlier Wednesday that consensus was growing around the ex-king as head of a transitional administration, which would run Afghanistan until a national council, or loya jirga, can convene, possibly as early as March.

In Washington, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said after a meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell that the Afghan leaders in Bonn "have a unique and historic responsibility to do something for their people."