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Talks yield agreement on interim Kandahar leader

Karzai Omar
Karzai, left, and Omar -- the future and previous rulers of Afghanistan.  

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- After days of uncertainty and tension, anti-Taliban officials agreed Sunday on a new leader for the region in and around the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar: Gul Agha, Kandahar province's former governor.

Agha's reappointment must be approved by Afghanistan's new interim government, which takes power December 22. But the incoming government's leader, Hamid Karzai, said the negotiated decision "removed a major obstacle" in Afghanistan's quest for peace and stability.

Mullah Naqibullah, a longtime Mujahedeen leader, was offered the top military position in Kandahar after Mullah Mohammed Omar, spiritual leader of the Taliban, fled the city. He turned it down, anti-Taliban officials said.

Karzai and Agha believe Omar left Kandahar Friday night, the eve of a surrender he had negotiated with Karzai, possibly heading northwest into the mountains of Oruzgan province.

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On Saturday, looting broke out throughout Kandahar as rival groups of armed men claimed control of the city.

Karzai later convened a meeting to settle the situation and prevent armed conflict in Kandahar. Many of the sessions were held at Taliban ruler Mullah Mohammed Omar's former compound, much of which had been destroyed by bombs.

Tribal commanders, who caused some tensions in Kandahar earlier Sunday as they argued over who should control the city, downplayed the potential for violence.

"We ought to resolve the situation so that there will not be any reason for the use of arms or violence," Agha said.

But even with Sunday's agreement, Karzai warned that the situation in Kandahar and throughout Afghanistan could remain volatile for the near future.

"Soldiers will be in the streets for a while -- you cannot avoid that," he said. "You will have, for a while, some chaos in Afghanistan -- it's inevitable. We have to establish a fresh order and, until that comes, there will be here and then some difficulty. But overall, things are very good.

"The kind of Afghanistan that we should make should be one that is not ruled by warlordism," Karzai said. "If it is not finished, terrorism will come back."


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