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Northern Alliance looking for broad-based government

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah is the Northern Alliance's equivalent of a foreign minister.
Dr. Abdullah Abdullah is the Northern Alliance's equivalent of a foreign minister.  

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- A top Northern Alliance official Saturday said he hopes an impending meeting between Afghan leaders and United Nations representatives will lead to "a fully represented, broad-based government."

"It is a unique moment for Afghanistan," said Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the Northern Alliance's equivalent of a foreign minister. "The whole situation has changed inside Afghanistan, in the region and in the international community."

The Northern Alliance is among four Afghan groups that have been invited to talks with U.N. officials in Bonn, Germany, that are scheduled to begin Tuesday. The talks, aimed at laying the ground work for a post-Taliban Afghan government, were to begin Monday but were postponed by a day to allow delegates more travel time.

Abdullah said there would be women representatives in the talks -- a departure from the Taliban regime, which kept women out of positions of power. "Women will be part of our delegation," he said.

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The current moment in history is unlike any Afghanistan has ever seen, Abdullah said.

"In the international community, there is a new focus on the situation in Afghanistan," he said. "All these factors create a unique opportunity, which all of us ... should seize."

Abdullah said the Northern Alliance is "fully aware of the urgency" of the situation -- what he termed a need for a "peaceful process or a political settlement which will bring about a fully broad-based, multi-ethnic government."

"In the interim transitional government, what is needed is a leader to lead the country. And the country is in a state of transition from war to peace -- when I'm saying war, 23 years of war and the whole country is destroyed," he said on CNN's "Live in Afghanistan with Christiane Amanpour."

Would the Northern Alliance accept Afghanistan's exiled king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, in the interim?

"If there was a consensus among all the groups that that type of leader is the former king, so be it," Abdullah said.

The former king has been living in Italy since a 1973 coup. Shah, now 87, has said he does not intend to return to power as monarch, but instead wants to serve as a unifying force for groups opposed to the Taliban.

Abdullah also was asked whether women could now remove their burkas, the mandated garment under Taliban rule that covered women from head to toe.

"They have the choice to put on a burka," he said, adding that women have begun returning to work, schools and hospitals in areas once controlled by the Taliban. "They have the choice to take it off."


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