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Straw looks to Afghan future

Straw: Laying groundwork for Bonn summit  

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has met senior Pakistani ministers to thrash out a mutual stance on the future of Afghanistan.

Straw and Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar both called for a "broad based multi-ethnic civil administration" in Afghanistan to replace the Taliban.

Straw is in the region attempting to bridge differences between the Northern Alliance, Pakistan, and Iran.

He met Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf on Friday to discuss issues and problems involved in the creation of a post-Taliban administration for Afghanistan.

They also looked at ways of ensuring a successful Afghan summit in Bonn, Germany, next week where the groundwork for a new Afghan government will be laid.

Straw said: "We are all agreed that it is extremely important that as quickly as possible there is a broad-based multi-ethnic civil administration in Afghanistan."

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He added, such an administration would be "a precursor to a more permanent government."

Sattar said Pakistan wanted "to join the world community in the reconstruction of Afghanistan."

When Sattar was asked whether the Pashtun representatives at the meeting will be truly representative of that ethnic group, he said he was supporting U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in his efforts to choose appropriate representatives.

He said the effort to choose the right representation is difficult now, indicating the situation is changing and fluid in the country as new forces are rising in different parts of Afghanistan.

Straw has also held talks in Tehran with Iranian Foreign Minister Dr Kamal Kharrazi and met Northern Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.

Islamabad wants Pashtuns, who form Afghanistan's largest ethnic group and who dominate much of Pakistan's border regions, to take a leading role in a future government.

Tehran wants the minority Shi'ite Muslims to be represented.

Straw told the UK Press Association he had "very constructive discussions" with Kharrazi.

"I expressed my appreciation to the government of Iran for the encouragement which they have given to the Northern Alliance, with which they have been closely associated, to ensure that they in turn were committed to that broad-based, multi-ethnic government," he said.

Straw said the Northern Alliance's military success was a result of the overwhelming assistance they had received from the United States, backed up by the UK.

After meeting Straw, Kharrazi told reporters he doubted whether the Afghans wanted to see more foreign troops deployed on their soil.

Kharrazi said there might be a role for some former Taliban followers in a new government. "There are people who have been working with the Taliban government but not affiliated to the mentality of the Taliban," he said.

"They can be helpful to the new government. I don't call them moderate Taliban elements, I just call them Afghans who happen to be working for the Taliban as experts, administrators, ordinary Afghans."

Abdullah told Kharrazi the alliance would adopt a "policy of leniency and forgiveness," and would "refrain from resorting to harsh policies in shaping Afghanistan's future socio-political atmosphere," the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.


• UK Foreign Office
• The Iranian President
• The Pakistan Government

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