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Afghanistan: Rabbani Wants All Ethnic Groups In Government

Prague, 22 November 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The leader of the Northern Alliance, Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, says he supports UN-led talks aimed at setting up a government that includes all ethnic groups. Rabbani spoke to RFE/RL in Prague by telephone from Kabul late yesterday about Monday's scheduled meeting in Bonn, Germany of Afghan factions to discuss a post-Taliban government.

Rabbani, an ethnic Tajik who was ousted by the Taliban in 1996, has previously tried to downplay the talks in Germany, suggesting they will be mostly of a symbolic value. Rabbani has called for substantive political talks between the Afghan factions to be held in Kabul, which is controlled by the Northern Alliance.

Rabbani also told RFE/RL that the Northern Alliance does not, in principle, agree with the presence of foreign troops inside Afghanistan. But he said there was no objection to a "limited" number of foreign troops who would carry out humanitarian and logistical operations.

In Afghanistan, U.S. warplanes and Northern Alliance forces today reportedly continued their attacks on Taliban positions.

The Afghan Islamic Press says U.S. planes bombed targets in Kondoz, Kandahar, and Paktia, three of the remaining provinces still held by the Taliban. The agency says U.S. planes also bombed the hills surrounding the city of Kandahar, home of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Western agencies say the Northern Alliance forces today attacked Taliban positions near Maidan Shahr, 30 kilometers west of Kabul, and positions in hills 20 kilometers southwest of the Afghan capital.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in today's attacks. The continued fighting comes as the Northern Alliance says they will start an all-out battle for Kondoz, the Taliban's last stronghold in northern Afghanistan, if Omar's forces do not surrender today.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has arrived in Iran for talks today on the effort to establish a broad-based new government in Afghanistan. Reuters news agency says Straw is due to have separate talks in Tehran with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi and Abdullah Abdullah, the foreign minister of Afghanistan's Northern Alliance.

Straw told reporters on the plane from London that he wants to discuss this coming Monday's scheduled talks in Bonn.