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Bonn Talks on Afghan Future Near Final Stages

BY Admin  December 4, 2001 at 4:30 PM EDT

Delegations representing different ethnic and political groups in Afghanistan sent a list of 150 candidates to a United Nations envoy, who will now narrow the list down to 29 members of a post-Taliban government.

The new administration – a chairman, five deputies and 23 ministers – would become the internationally recognized government of Afghanistan and fill the country’s seat in the U.N.

U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is said to be using ethnic balance as the main criterion for selection but is also considering competence and integrity.

“This is a very difficult hurdle,” said U.N. spokesman Ahmad Fawzi. “Now we have a road map to a free and independent Afghanistan over a period of 2 1/2 years, leading, we hope, to a new constitution and free and fair election.”

Organizers say the Bonn meeting is in the final stage and, if delegates agree on the composition of the transition government, a signing ceremony could take place as early as Wednesday night or Thursday morning. The goal is to have a multinational force in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Dec. 22, when the new administration would take power.

The exact date of the turnover is being discussed with the head of the Northern Alliance, Burhanuddin Rabbani, who is currently living in the presidential palace in Kabul.

The plan structures an interim government for six months, at which time a national assembly of Afghan tribal leaders would convene to ratify a transitional government and establish election days.

International security forces would monitor Kabul and other parts of the country. Groundwork for a national army and supreme court are included in the deal.

Pashtun tribal chief Hamid Karzai, still in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban, is likely to be named head of the interim administration. Karzai is an English-speaking relative of the former king, Mohammad Zahir Shah, and considered the leader most acceptable to the different factions inside Afghanistan and to the countries surrounding it.

Agreement within the Northern Alliance

The talks have lasted eight days so far – longer than expected. Infighting within the Northern Alliance over potential candidates was stalling progress, but pressure from the United States envoy precipitated a final decision.

The Northern Alliance is a fractious coalition of armed groups controlling much of the country, but it is made up of relatively few Pashtuns, the dominant ethnic group in the south.

Speaking from Kabul, Alliance foreign minister Abdullah agreed the 29-member government should proportionally reflect the ethnic makeup of the country and include a woman. However, he pressed for Rabbani’s political party to control defense, interior and foreign ministries.

Without a U.N.-approved interim government, Western officials said they would withdraw billions of dollars of promised reconstruction aid.