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Ex-king sending envoys to Pakistan

Afghan king
Mohammed Zahir Shah, pictured here greeting Afghan opposition leaders, says he is willing to return to Afghanistan.  

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Afghanistan's exiled king is to send representatives to Pakistan and Iran to discuss Afghanistan's future political situation.

The move was confirmed on Friday by Amid Sidig, a spokesman for the former ruler, Mohammed Zahir Shah, who was deposed in a 1973 coup and lives in Rome.

The move comes a day after Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf requested such a meeting through the Italian foreign ministry.

On Thursday, Zahir met 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 ruling Taliban regime end.

The ex-Afghan king tells U.S. congressmen he is willing to head an interim government (September 30)

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Zahir has forged an alliance with Afghan groups opposed to the Taliban, including the Northern Alliance, an armed force that controls parts of the country.

However, the former ruler has said through spokesmen that he does not intend to return to power as monarch; rather, he wants to serve as a unifying force or perhaps head an interim government.

U.S. officials have told CNN that the United States would like to see the former king become a "rallying force" to bring together groups opposed to the Taliban, both inside and outside Afghanistan.

Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban supreme leader, recently warned against reinstating the former king or any form of government to replace the ruling 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 on September 25 that the outside world should not try to impose a proxy government on Afghanistan in place of the ruling Taliban.

Zahir has been in exile in Rome since his ouster in 1973 in a coup that took place when the monarch was out of the country.


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