Ex-Afghan king working on post-Taliban government, envoy says
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Afghanistan's former king is working to create a provisional government that will step in should the ruling Taliban be ousted from power, an envoy to the king told CNN.
"In order to avoid any possibility of a void or a vacuum, we want to decide on establishing a supreme council which will provisionally take over if there is a need for it," Hadayat Amin Arsala, envoy to 86-year-old former King Mohammed Zahir Shah, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
Arsala is in Islamabad to discuss the former monarch's proposals with the Pakistani leadership and U.S. officials. The United States has launched a sustained military strike against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the terrorist network American officials say Afghanistan's rulers are sheltering.
"We are very close to [being ready]," Arsala said. "We've talked among ourselves ... and we've talked with the Northern Alliance and with the rest of the community. We will have a very broad-based political structure which will take the place of the current structure."
The former monarch has been living in Italy since being ousted in a 1973 coup, and he has said he has no plans to return to power.
Instead, the former king said he hopes to convene an emergency grand assembly, or "Loya Jirga," made up primarily of tribal elders drawn from Afghanistan's many and varied ethnic groups.
Arsala said that the ex-ruler was "the only person who can unify [Afghanistan] at this juncture" and told CNN that "other elements among the Taliban ... hope to be able to participate." He refused to elaborate.
"The idea was ours. We wanted to create a political structure, which would be acceptable to the people of Afghanistan and which could bring peace and stability to the country," he said. "What is important is that the people in Afghanistan want it."
On Monday, the former Afghan monarch met in Rome with the foreign ministers of Italy and France, who expressed full support for his plan to bring peace to his war-ravaged homeland.
Italian Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero and French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine told the ex-ruler that their countries are willing to provide any sort of support the king might need to put his plan into action.
The monarch met earlier this month with a U.S. delegation headed by Richard Haass, a senior adviser to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Bush administration sources told CNN that Haass outlined a program of future possibilities should the Taliban regime end.
Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban supreme leader, recently warned against reinstating the former king or any form of government to replace the regime. The king faces "his own destruction" if he comes back to Afghanistan, Omar said.
"The U.S. should let the Afghan people choose their own independence," Omar said. "A future puppet government supported by America may be able to take cities and airports but never the minds and hearts of people in rural areas."
Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar warned September 25 that the outside world should not try to impose a proxy government on Afghanistan in place of the Taliban.
In the past, Sattar said, "those who intervened in Afghanistan and tried to plot their own preferred leaders on Afghanistan paid a very high price for that blunder."
After the king was deposed, a succession of Soviet-backed leaders took power until the Soviet army invaded in December 1979, sparking a guerrilla war that ended with Soviet forces withdrawing in 1989.
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