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Afghanistan: Talks In Bonn Seen As Stalling

  • Alexandra Poolos

Bonn, 30 November 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Talks on Afghanistan's political future appear to have stalled as delegates at a UN-sponsored conference in Germany continue to debate representation in the proposed government bodies, the interim Supreme Council, and the interim administration.

The four factions at the Bonn talks -- the Northern Alliance, the Rome group backing ex-king Zahir Shah, and two smaller exile groups -- have agreed on a broad framework for Afghanistan's post-Taliban government. They agreed on an executive body of 15 to 25 people and on a larger council of up to 200 people with a semi-legislative role.

The government will call a larger general council, a Loya Jirga, in the spring of 2002 to put into place a transitional government for two years, to be followed by free elections.

But the factions have yet to agree on how many seats each of the factions will hold in the interim bodies, as well as who should fill them.

In the background, policy splits have emerged within the Northern Alliance delegation, with Haji Qadir, a top-ranking Pashtun delegate, leaving the talks in protest, saying his ethnic group was not adequately represented.

Ahmad Fawzi, deputy to UN Special Envoy to Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi, confirmed Qadir left the conference. But he says, "The show must go on."

"I believe [Qadir] left because of some misunderstandings within his own delegation and also because he was unhappy with the Pashtun representation at the conference."

Though Pashtuns comprise the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, they don't have their own delegation in Bonn. Each of the four delegations present includes some Pashtun representation.

Qadir is the regional governor of much of eastern Afghanistan, including Jalalabad. Pashtuns in this region reject the authority of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani. Rabbani is a Tajik who heads the Northern Alliance.

UN officials and delegates have promised to reach a final agreement by sometime tomorrow, although Fawzi said that officials are somewhat "flexible" about time and that the talks could run into the next day.

"If we find that they are making progress and that they need a few minutes after midnight tomorrow too...then we are flexible. There is no reason why we can't stay until Sunday [2 December]."

Delegates have reportedly composed lists of individuals they want named to the council and to the administration, and those lists have been sent to each faction's leader. The Northern Alliance's Rabbani has apparently rejected a list sent by his faction in Bonn.

Rabbani also told a news conference in Kabul that members of the government should be elected "based on the votes of the people." He said any other mechanism for choosing leaders is not acceptable. He added that any security force deployed in the country should be comprised primarily of Afghans, with up to 200 foreign peacekeepers.

Fawzi could not explain the meaning of Rabbani's remarks and whether they would nullify any of the agreements made in Bonn. But he did say that the UN and other Western officials are looking for an agreement that will be implemented and respected by all of the parties, especially the Northern Alliance.

Fawzi said Rabbani and the Northern Alliance had assured him that decisions made in Bonn would be accepted. He says that now, "We can only take their word for it."