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Afghanistan: Leaders Meet To Finalize New Government

Bonn, 4 December 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan leaders are meeting near Bonn today to try to finalize a list of appointments to a new interim government having agreed to an accord forging a political framework for post-Taliban Afghanistan. The interim administration, which is to be backed up by a multinational security force, is to run for six months before handing power over to a broad-based transitional government.

But the four Afghan groups still have to settle on the crucial issue of who is to serve in the interim administration.

All the groups have now submitted a list of candidates for the 29-member interim administration and they will discuss the names on the lists today.

The United Nations special envoy on Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, hopes to travel to Berlin tomorrow to present the final accord to a donor's conference meeting in the German capital.

UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi says the delegates agreed early today to a detailed UN blueprint that provides for a six-month interim administration, followed by an 18-month transitional government.

Four rival Afghan groups, including the Northern Alliance and supporters of the exiled former king of Afghanistan, have been meeting near Bonn since 27 November.

The agreed UN text is a blueprint for an interim government to start rebuilding Afghanistan for about six months until a Loya Jirga, or traditional assembly, takes place.

Fawzi also said the Afghan groups agreed to the deployment of an international security force, "in whatever form it might take," for the Afghan capital Kabul.

He said the four groups agreed to a UN-proposed text that calls for the UN Security Council to deploy a UN-mandated force to maintain security in Kabul and its surrounding areas.

The accord also stipulates the demilitarization of Kabul. As for the war in Afghanistan a U.S. Defense Department spokesman says opposition forces are consolidating near Kandahar, the last Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan.

Navy Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem made the comment yesterday at a briefing in Washington.

He said he cannot predict when Pashtun tribal forces might issue a final ultimatum to the Taliban to surrender or be overwhelmed.

Yesterday, U.S. warplanes continued air strikes of suspected Taliban targets around Kandahar and Jalalabad to the north.

The strikes were directed at cave and tunnel complexes where suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden and other leaders of his Al-Qaeda network are believed to be hiding.

On the ground, Pashtun tribesmen battled Taliban fighters for control of Kandahar's airport. U.S. military officials also say trapped Taliban troops were firing mobile missiles at attacking U.S. warplanes around Kandahar, prompting American pilots to be especially cautious.