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Post-Taliban government under discussion

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. envoy to the Afghan opposition, James Dobbins, is in Pakistan for urgent talks with Pakistani leaders and various Afghan factions about building a broad-based government for Afghanistan, the State Department said.

Dobbins, who was appointed last week by Secretary of State Colin Powell as the Bush administration's representative to work with Afghan opposition groups, arrived in Islamabad Wednesday following talks with the exiled Afghan leader, King Zahir Shah, in Rome and with Turkish officials in Ankara.

"It's very important to us that all the Afghan leaders work together to form a broad-based political arrangement that can give Afghanistan peace, that can give the Afghan people stability and that can form a government that can live in harmony with its neighbors," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

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Officials said Dobbins' mission is to speak with as many Afghan ethnic and tribal leaders as possible, including the Pashtun authority, and to assist international efforts to convene a transitional government for Afghanistan.

Dobbins' work will complement the efforts of the UN Secretary General's Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi, who will convene a meeting of various Afghan factions to take place in the United Arab Emirates in the next few days.

The need to build a broad-based transitional government has become even more urgent in recent days, as the Northern Alliance advanced into Kabul, sending the Taliban fleeing out of the capital.

The international community has been concerned that the Northern Alliance would initiate violent reprisals against supporters of the Taliban in Kabul, but Boucher said that the rebels have kept their promise to maintain the bulk of its forces outside the capital and that life in the city "is returning to normal."

"We have made clear in our discussions with the Northern Alliance the importance of respect for human rights and for discipline by their troops," he said. "And I would say, for the moment, the initial signs are good."

He added that the United States is examining options for a multinational force to be comprised of a coalition of willing nations to maintain law and order in the Kabul and other cities vacated by the Taliban.

"We know of various governments, Muslim and non-Muslim governments, who might be willing to contribute to such a force, to contribute to such an effort," Boucher said. State Department officials say such countries could include Britain, Germany, Jordan, Turkey and Bangladesh.

Before arriving in Islamabad, Dobbins was in Ankara for meetings with Turkish officials on their possible contribution to such a force, as well as to discuss their own efforts to convene a meeting of Afghan groups, a senior State Department official added.


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