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Afghan: Iran Calls For Coalition Government In Afghanistan

Bishkek, 11 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati said today that Afghanistan needs a broad coalition government if years of fighting are to be ended.

Velayati made the comment to reporters in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek where he was ending a two-day visit.

Iran is widely seen as closely allied to the former government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani, ousted from Kabul by the Islamist Taliban militia last year. The Taliban controls most of the country but still faces fierce resistance in the north.

Meanwhile, an opposition commander (Sayed Jafar Naderi) has told Reuters that the northern town of Pul-i-Khumri, held by Taliban for two weeks, fell to the opposition early today. He said Taliban forces had fled further north. There is no independent confirmation.

Taliban fighters reached the town in a broad offensive last month but were later isolated there after the opposition pushed other Taliban forces back from nearby areas.

Taliban military official Mullah Feda Mohammad said five Taliban Russian-made T-55 battle tanks had used a special bridge to cross the Salang river today and reinforce Taliban front-line positions overlooking the opposition-controlled town of Jabul-os-Siraj, north of Kabul. The Taliban has been battling to re-take the town - and push on to relieve besieged Taliban units further north - for almost two weeks.