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Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Deal Expected Today

Kabul, 31 December 2001 (RFE/RL) - A senior Afghan official said a final agreement on the deployment of foreign peacekeepers in Afghanistan will be initialed today. General Deen Mohammad Jurhat, an Interior Ministry official responsible for public security under the week-old interim government, said the expected signing on 30 December was stuck on the issue of adherence to Islamic code, AFP reported.

"Last night we would have signed the agreement but it did not happen because of two articles in this agreement," AFP quoted Jurhat as saying. "Today they [the British delegation] will come to the Interior Ministry and will sign it," he said, adding the deal will be signed by Interior Minister Yunus Qanooni and British Major General John McColl.

Jurhat said the question of adherence to the Islamic code held up the expected initialing. "Afghanistan is an Islamic country and Afghanistan's laws are Islamic," he said. "For example, drinking alcohol and also sexual affairs is usual in the countries the troops come from. They must obey Afghanistan's laws."

Meanwhile, more British troops arrived in Kabul today to pave the way for the international peacekeeping force, AFP added. The group, including women, were the first reinforcements for the 200-strong British contingent already patrolling the capital and providing visible support to the new interim administration, which was inaugurated on 22 December and is slated for a six-month term to help steer the way to elections.

The British convoy drove in from Bagram air base to the north. British Embassy spokesman Paul Sykes said a second British convoy from Bagram was expected to enter Kabul later in the day. He said about a total of 70 personnel were due to arrive in the two convoys.

Sykes said the reinforcements would help establish a site for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is expected eventually to number 3,000-4,000 troops.

British officials said their country's deployment would remain "low key" as interpreters put the finishing touches to a final version of the accord in both English and the local Dari language.

Sykes said the expected initialing of the document late yesterday was delayed only by technical questions surrounding the translation. "We never set a timeline for this -- we have to get it right," he said. "It has to be an agreement all sides understand. Last night was a matter of getting some of the details in the text translated."