Wednesday, December 5, 2001, Chandigarh, India





THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
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Afghan power-sharing accord signed

Bonn, December 5
Afghan factions signed a landmark accord on Wednesday to set up a post-Taliban government headed by Pashtun chief Hamid Karzai that will start rebuilding the devastated country from December 22.

After negotiating through the night, the four delegation heads initialled the deal at the secluded Petersberg hotel outside Bonn that has hosted the talks, just hours before a major conference of aid donors to Afghanistan starts in Berlin.

The UN-brokered deal, reached before dawn on the ninth day of gruelling talks, creates a government of 30 members reflecting Afghanistan's ethnic diversity to rule for six months until a Loya Jirga, or traditional grand assembly, is held.

Former King Zahir Shah is granted a symbolic role as the opener of the Loya Jirga, which should then set up a more permanent administration. The accord also requests the UN Security Council to mandate international peacekeepers to guarantee security in the Afghan capital Kabul. ReutersBack

Afghan tribesmen battle bin Laden loyalists

Kabul/Quetta, December 5
Anti-Taliban forces fired on suspected mountain lairs of Osama bin Laden in east Afghanistan on Wednesday as US planes bombed the same targets.

"(US) bombing continues," anti-Taliban commander Hazrat Ali told Reuters by satellite phone from Jalalabad in the east. "We have taken some areas which they (bin Laden's men) left around Tora Bora. They pulled out from these areas without a fight."

A Soviet-era Mujahideen tank was firing at positions being simultaneously bombed by US planes at Tora Bora, about 55 km south of Jalalabad, CNN reported from the scene.

The ground attacks were being met by small-arms fire, it said.

Ali said on Tuesday US air strikes had killed 12 members of bin Laden's al Qaida network in the previous two days in or around his suspected underground hideout in Tora Bora. There was no independent confirmation.

Pashtun tribal chief Hamid Karzai, the man named at talks in Bonn to head a post-Taliban government, told Reuters his men were on the outskirts of southern Kandahar, the birthplace of the hardline Islamic movement which swept to power in Kabul in 1996.

"We are continuing our movement towards Kandahar and let's hope we can be there as soon as possible," he added.

Karzai also said there were negotiations with some of the beleaguered city's defenders.

"Some Taliban officials are calling us. We're trying to give them as much time as possible. We want to prevent bloodshed," he said. "There should be no loss of life. Civilians should not suffer."

Khalid Pashtoon, spokesman for former Kandahar Mujahideen governor Gul Agha Sherzai, told Reuters by satellite phone from near the city's airport there had been no fighting since Tuesday.

"We are waiting to finalise a new strategy. There are a lot of villages neighbouring the airport region and we don't want to hurt those people," he said. "Maybe in one or two days we will attack from a different direction."

He said tribal fighters had captured some Taliban radios.

"We can hear (Taliban leader) Mullah Mohammad Omar all night... and all night Mullah Mohamad Omar is telling the Taliban to fight against Hamid Karzai, to try to ambush them."

The USA launched strikes on Afghanistan to flush out bin Laden, its prime suspect in the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, and punish his Taliban protectors.

Karzai was speaking to Reuters minutes before a UN spokesman in Bonn announced that Afghan factions had chosen the him to head an interim Afghan administration. ReutersBack

Al Qaida planned attacks outside US: India

New Delhi, December 5
Home Minister L. K. Advani said on Wednesday a man arrested on suspicion of being linked with Osama bin Laden's al Qaida network had confessed to plans to carry out suicide attacks in Britain, Australia and India after September 11.

"We arrested this person about a month ago in Bombay and he made some very shocking confessions," Mr Advani told a meeting of business and industry leaders.

"The al Qaida had plans to not only attack the United States but also for similar attacks on Britain, Australia and the Indian Parliament," the minister said.

Advani said the arrested man said he had learnt to fly planes in Australia and in Britain.

"We have been able to verify the information and confirm it. So there is truth to what he has said," Advani said. Reuters

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