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Alliance objects to international peacekeepers

Saturday, December 1, 2001

KOENIGSWINTER, Germany -- Talks on Afghanistan's political future deadlocked Friday after the northern alliance leader in Kabul insisted an interim administration be elected and objected to plans for international peacekeepers.

The impasse came amid a rift between the alliance's leadership in Afghanistan and its delegation at the U.N.-sponsored conference here outside Bonn.

Former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani complained at a news conference in Kabul that his delegation in Germany was being pressured to name members of interim bodies at the talks and to accept an international security force -- both of which he opposes.

Rabbani is opposed to a major role in the interim administration for the nation's exiled monarch.

U.S. envoy James F. Dobbins is pushing the northern alliance to allow the decision on who will take part in an interim administration to be made in Germany, as all four factions at the talks agreed on the first day, Tuesday.

"We are pressing a different view," said Dobbins, who is asserting influence from the sidelines of the talks. "It is important that this be overcome and that they go ahead, as this is a tremendous, maybe unique, opportunity for Afghanistan."

Rabbani favors the election, rather than appointment, of an interim council to run Afghanistan until a national assembly is convened in March.

Rabbani also raised objections to any international peacekeeping force, saying he would prefer an all-Afghan force with 1,000 fighters from each faction. Any foreign contribution should be limited to 200, Rabbani said.

Talks delay sought

In Germany, the alliance delegation reacted by asking for a 10-day delay in the talks to return to Kabul and announce their list from there, delegates from the other groups told The Associated Press.

That proposal was rejected by all other delegations, and U.N. mediators were meeting with the northern alliance to overcome the obstacles.

Besides the alliance, the Bonn conference brings together delegations from the exiled former king, Mohammad Zaher Shah, and two other small exile groups.

Daoud Yakub, an adviser to the ex-king's delegation, said the northern alliance was only trying to "consolidate their gains and be in even a stronger position to dictate their terms. We want to finish."

He said the other delegations were prepared to announce the lists of people they propose for two interim bodies, an executive body with a Cabinet-like function and a quasi-legislative supreme council, on Saturday.

U.N. spokesman Ahmad Fawzi has said the executive body would have 15-25 members and the supreme council up to 200.

He said Friday that it was critical that any deal reached in Germany be implemented in Afghanistan. "We do not want to have an agreement that is not going be implemented or respected by all four, and especially by the party in Kabul," he said.

Indicating the real risk that any deal formulated in Germany would fall apart on the ground, a delegate from the small Peshawar-based group of exiles, Anwar Ahadi, said northern alliance chief envoy Younus Qanooni told the other delegates: "If we agree to a list here and sign something, what value will it have if it is not accepted by our leaders in Kabul?"

Hard feelings evident

Though it has acted in concert to regain control of many areas of Afghanistan from the Taliban with the backing of U.S. airstrikes, the northern alliance comprises groups and warlords who have at times been bitter enemies.

These fissures have been evident in Germany for days. Just Thursday, Qanooni, who earlier had rejected an outside force, said one could be tolerated once an interim administration -- one of the goals in Bonn -- is in place.

A spokesman for northern alliance delegate Mohammad Hussin Natiqi said leaders in Kabul had failed to grasp the international focus on the talks in Germany.

"They sent representatives who do not have the authority to speak on their behalf," Mohammad Bakhshi said. "And now, they have discovered that serious business is being decided here."

Signaling ethnic tensions at the talks, Abdul Qadir, the governor of the Pashtun province of Nangarhar, which includes Jalalabad, and a northern alliance delegate, walked out to protest the lack of Pashtun representation here.

"If peace and stability are to return to Afghanistan, it can only be through proper representation of the Afghan people," Qadir said by telephone from a friend's house near Hamburg.

Qadir said he appealed to U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to get more Pashtuns into the talks. "But this did not happen," he said, adding he will support any agreement at the talks "if the people of Afghanistan endorse whatever is decided here."

Though the Pashtuns comprise the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, with estimates ranging from 40 to 60 percent, they don't have their own delegation here. At the same time, each of the four delegations present includes Pashtun representation, including two others from the northern alliance.


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