Thursday, November 22, 2001, Chandigarh, India





National Capital Region--Delhi

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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Alliance set to enter Kunduz
Ultimatum to Taliban ends today

Islamabad, November 21
The anti-Taliban forces appeared poised for a major offensive against the militia troops holed up in northern Afghanistan city of Kunduz after serving an ultimatum to them to surrender by tomorrow morning or face “consequences”, while the USA said there would be no let-up in the fight against Al-Qaida.

The beleaguered Taliban vowed to defend its southern stronghold of Kandahar and claimed that “three or four provinces” were still under its control.

Rival Afghan factions, including Northern Alliance which now controls most part of the country, took the first step towards forging a representative post-Taliban government by agreeing to multi-party talks in German capital Berlin next week.

In Rome, exiled King Mohammad Zahir Shah agreed to send a delegation for the talks likely to be attended by exiled Afghan community in Pakistan.

Maintaining their siege of Kunduz, where nearly 30,000 Taliban soldiers including Pakistanis, Chechens and Arabs are holed up, Northern Alliance today said the militia troops have “until Thursday morning to give themselves up. After that they will have to take responsibility for the consequences.” The ultimatum was given by Gen Nazir Mahmad in Khanabad, about 20 km east of Kunduz, where US warplanes kept up their pounding.

KABUL: Vowing to stay in Afghanistan until the job is done, the USA sent in more marines to join the hunt for Osama bin Laden while the world struggled to bring peace and hope to the war-ravaged land.

“We could be there for quite a while, which is fine, because we’ve got an objective in mind, and we’ll stay there until we get our objective,” US President George W. Bush told reporters in Washington.

The Pentagon said it was sending the marines to the central Asian region, ready for orders to track down the Saudi-born millionaire it says masterminded the September 11 suicide attacks that killed around 4,500 in the USA.

In Saudi Arabia, the daily newspaper al-Watan said Bin Laden had ordered his aides to kill him if he risked falling into the hands of US troops.

Quoting unidentified US and European diplomats, the paper said the US administration was convinced it would not capture Bin Laden alive after Taliban defectors revealed his death wish to CIA agents in Afghanistan.

“Bin Laden has given precise instructions to his closest aides, who will remain by his side until the end, to shoot him if he becomes surrounded by US troops and cannot escape,” the newspaper reported.

U.S. General Tommy Franks did not rule out putting ground troops into the rugged country, where the Taliban are holding out in strongholds in the south and in the north and where US special forces are already operating.

U.S. planes, in action for a 46th day, kept up attacks on the besieged Taliban enclave of Kunduz on Wednesday, the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported, as thousands of defenders tried to negotiate a surrender.

Taliban defectors and anti-Taliban Northern Alliance troops surrounding Kunduz say Afghan Taliban fighters want to surrender, but their comrades from Bin Laden’s Al-Qaida network — aware they have nowhere to run — plan to fight to the death and have prevented their surrender, witnesses said.

The Northern Alliance says it has suspended its ground offensive on the city while surrender talks go on, but US planes have staged daily bombing raids.

At a gathering in Washington, the USA, the European Union, Japan and Saudi Arabia launched a hefty financial campaign to rebuild Afghanistan, starting with “quick-hitting” projects to inspire hope among ordinary Afghans.

The UN estimates that some five million Afghan refugees are at risk this winter. Many lack shelter and food.

World leaders are focusing on the political and economic fronts as they try to build a stable future for Afghanistan, a country embroiled in conflict since a Soviet invasion in 1979. PTI, ReutersBack

 

30 Afghan group leaders to draw up interim govt: UN

United Nations, November 21
The top UN envoy for Afghanistan said he wants fewer than 30 Afghan leaders to quickly decide on a broad-based transitional administration for the country at a meeting that hopefully will start on Monday in Germany.

The meeting in Berlin will bring together representatives from four different Afghan groupings - “each one claiming to be fully representative of the whole of Afghanistan” - and hopefully unite them in a single grouping that would choose a provisiona administration, he said yesterday.

Mr Brahimi said he also expects the participants to talk about security arrangements for the capital, Kabul, and the rest of the nation.

“I very, very much hope that out of this meeting which is not, hopefully, only symbolic we will take some concrete decisions and steps,” he told reporters after briefing the UN Security Council.

“We are rather encouraged by what we’ve heard from the various parties, and we hope that this will be the beginning we’ve been looking for to end the conflict in Afghanistan and start building new institutions for the country,” he said.

Asked about a comment by former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who is head of the Northern Alliance, that the opening session would be “symbolic” and not substantive, Mr Brahimi said: “That’s not what they told us.”

Mr Brahimi said he wanted Afghans meeting in Berlin to create a small body to take over the running of Kabul before a larger, more representative group could be organised. The Berlin meeting is expected to last a week.

Those talks will include representatives of major factions and ethnic groups, including a sizable number of ethnic Pashtun, who make up about 40 per cent of the estimated 20 million population. The Pashtun-dominated Taliban militia, which captured Kabul in 1996, was not invited.

Mr Brahimi on November 16 mapped out a two-year procedure for setting up a viable government. The USA has left this task largely to the united nations so that any rulers in Kabul would have international legitimacy.

But with events on the ground moving faster than diplomacy, Mr Brahimi said he wanted to short-circuit some earlier plans.

His plan calls for an emergency Loya Jirga, a traditional afghan assembly of ethnic leaders and elders, to approve the transitional administration as well as yet-undefined security proposals. A second Loya Jirga could then be convened to approve a constitution and create a government.

Mr Brahimi had wanted a “coalition of the willing” nations to form a security force, mainly outside of Kabul, until an all-Afghan force could be established.

This group, being organised by the US Central Command in Tampa, Florida, was expected to include soldiers from Britain, France, Germany, Canada, turkey and Jordan, for a start. But the Alliance objected immediately when British forces began to set up a base near the capital and its future is in doubt.

Attending the Berlin meeting, Brahimi said, would be representatives from the following groups:

- the Northern Alliance, which includes largely ethnic tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras. Warlords in the alliance fought each other and destroyed Kabul when they were in power from 1992 to 1996.

- The “Rome process” which is led by supporters of 87-year-old exiled King Mohammad Zaher Shah, who is a Pashtun.

- The “Cyprus process,” a group of exiles and refugees, many of them in Iran, who have met several times in the Mediterranean island, with Teheran’s backing.

- The “Peshawar process” of several hundred Afghans who met in the Pakistani city on October 28. Most are Pashtun refugees in Pakistan, which help organises the meeting. AP, ReutersBack

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