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Exiled Afghan king consulted

Mohammed Zahir Shah
Mohammed Zahir Shah has lived in Rome since he was overthrown in a 1973 coup  

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- The United States consulted on Tuesday with the exiled king of Afghanistan ahead of a possible strike on the ruling Taliban regime, blamed for harbouring suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.

The U.S. Embassy in Rome would not disclose the topics discussed in the meeting between King Mohammed Zahir Shah and a U.S. embassy official. They also would not confirm reports that U.S. President George W. Bush passed along a message to the monarch.

The 86-year-old monarch has lived in Rome since he was overthrown in a 1973 coup by his nephew.

He was also scheduled to meet with a European Union delegation on Tuesday and a team from Afghanistan's anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, on Wednesday.

The alliance team left Afghanistan's Panjshir region late Sunday for neighboring Tajikistan and then flew through Uzbekistan to Rome, the military attache of the opposition alliance's embassy in Tajikistan, Muhamad Salekh Registani said.

The goal of the talks was to consult with the monarch about the fight against the ruling Taliban and the U.S. anti-terrorism campaign in the region, the military attache said. The delegation is also to appeal to the ex-monarch to return to Afghanistan and may ask him to lead their alliance, Registani said.

He said they may also discuss the king's long-sought dream of convening a grand national assembly of Afghan leaders, including tribal elders, clerics, intellectuals and landowners.

A U.N. envoy said after meeting the king this weekend that he could play an important role in forming a post-Taliban transitional government, though Zahir has no ambitions to return to his homeland as monarch.


• Ex-Afghan king 'ready to return'
September 24, 2001

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