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Afghanistan: Former King, Northern Alliance Unite

Rome, 1 October 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Afghanistan's former king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, and the country's opposition Northern Alliance say they have agreed on a program aimed at ousting the ruling Taliban militia. Zahir Shah's representatives and the alliance issued a joint statement today in Rome, saying they will convene a traditional grand council of Afghan leaders to appoint a Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, of tribal and ethnic leaders to elect a head of state and transitional government.

Sattar Sierat, an adviser of the former king said, "This Supreme Council for the National Unity of Afghanistan, considering the present situation prevailing in the world and in Afghanistan, will act or serve as the representative of the entire people of Afghanistan and will be able to reflect the wishes and expectations and aspirations of the Afghan people."

A representative of the former shah told AFP that a council would meet in Rome in about two weeks to appoint delegates to the assembly.

Western diplomats and many Afghans say that Zahir Shah, who has lived in Italy in exile since 1973, is the only figure with the authority to assemble a broad anti-Taliban front. The Northern Alliance is the main force still fighting the Kabul regime but controls less than 10 percent of Afghan territory.

In Islamabad, Pakistan, today, the Afghan Islamic Press reported that the Taliban, seeking to broaden its support, has included elders and war commanders in three eastern provinces in its government machinery.

For more on former Afghan monarch Mohammed Zahir Shah, please see: Afghanistan: Is Former Monarch Credible Taliban Alternative?.