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Afghan talks stalled

Koenigswinter (Germany), November 30
Talks on Afghanistan’s future stalled at a crucial phase today, with the Northern Alliance refusing to present a list of names for interim bodies that would rule the country until a national council next spring, delegates and diplomats close to the talks said.

Northern Alliance chief envoy Younus Qanooni told other delegations that he was not in a position to agree to any names, members of former King Zahir Shah’s delegation and from the smaller Peshawar group of Afghan exiles told the Associated Press.

A western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the talks had been deadlocked.

“We are now in a difficult phase,” the diplomat said.

In Kabul Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was the nation’s last President before the Taliban seized power in 1996, complained that a delegation representing his group at the talks had been placed under “pressure” to go along with some points, including how a national interim council should be formed and the question of peace keepers.

He raised objections to plan for an international force to maintain peace in Afghanistan, saying he would prefer that security be provided by Afghan factions, with each group having as many as 1,000 security personnel in such a locally recruited force.

However, he said if the world community insisted on deploying foreign troops, then the number should be no more than 200.

Rabbani said he wants an interim council formed as a precursor to a permanent government, but instead of having its members appointed as has been proposed at the talks, they should be directly elected by the Afghan people. The council could then work toward the formation of a permanent grand council, Rabbani told a news conference at Kabul’s presidential palace where he has returned following the Taliban’s ouster from the capital earlier this month.

“We could go through this process and have (an interim) council in one or two months,” said Rabbani.

He said the makeup of the council should be shared among various ethnic communities on the grounds of population, meaning that the largest group, the Pashtuns, would have the largest slice of seats. APBack

 

Taliban flee amid bombing
K.J.M. Varma

Islamabad, November 30
Asserting that Taliban have been routed and terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaida is on the run, the USA today carried out one of its heaviest bombardments on the militia’s last stronghold of Kandahar with anti-Taliban forces closing in on the city raising the possibility of a ground war.

US marines continued to arrive in Afghanistan with more than 1,000 troops being deployed at a desert airstrip within striking distance of the city while others were positioned at two other places in the north.

With the threat of a ground offensive looming large, many residents of Kandahar, including Taliban officials, are reported to have fled the city as efforts to negotiate surrender of militia commanders continued.

Amidst reports of some Taliban fighters abandoning the checkpoints and fleeing into the countryside, Hamid Karzai, the Pashtun opposition military commander, said his forces have surrounded the city but not entered Kandahar.

Northern Allliance Defence Minister Abdul Qassim Fahim told CNN that he expected Kandahar will most likely fall in a surrender negotiated by Karzai as Taliban supremo Mullah Mohammad Omar and Bin Laden have lost their regular forces.

“They move very secretly and travel from one place to another very secretly. If Kandahar and suburbs are captured, it is my strong opinion that Osama and Omar will be arrested,” he said.

“In my belief there will be no fighting, and they will surrender under the responsibility of Karzai,” Fahim said.

In Washington, US President George W. Bush said the Taliban have been routed and Bin Laden’s Al-Qaida is on the run.

“We have destroyed the Taliban military. They are in total confusion. The government that used to hate women, and not educate its children, and disrupt humanitarian supplies, and destroy religious symbols of other religions is now in rout,” Bush said.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem said “of those Taliban forces that still have their commanders with them, some are negotiating for the surrender of their forces. PTIBack

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