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EU calls for U.N. role in Afghanistan

Joschka Fischer
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer is to visit Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran  

LUXEMBOURG -- European Union foreign ministers have been drawing up a blueprint for a "significant" U.N. role in building a post-Taliban Afghanistan.

The EU is pushing for U.N. involvement in reshaping Afghanistan after the current military campaign against the Taliban regime is concluded.

Leading EU nations are also sounding out Afghanistan's neighbours on the way forward.

"The United Nations is going to play a crucial role. They are the only ones that can guide" Afghanistan's transition, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told the Associated Press.

Fischer is to visit Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran in the next week.

The Luxembourg meeting came two days ahead of a summit of EU national leaders in Ghent, Belgium.

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Top of the agenda for the foreign ministers was hammering out a joint strategy on terrorism and rebuilding Afghanistan in preparation for the Ghent summit.

The foreign ministers were building on measures agreed by a joint meeting of home affairs and interior ministers -- also in Luxembourg -- on Tuesday.

Officials said that while there were rumblings in Europe about the U.S. and British air campaign against Taliban targets, officials the EU nations had not considered any call for a cease-fire.

"Political support for the United States in its campaign will be underscored at the EU summit on Friday," a German diplomat, who asked not to be named, told the Associated Press. France and Germany have proposed that Afghanistan's ex-king, Mohammad Zaher Shah, who was deposed in 1973, becomes the national figurehead when Afghanistan is reshaped. On Monday, the EU finance, justice and transport ministers endorsed measures to combat global terrorism, including a move to apply money-laundering rules to various serious crimes, not just the illegal drugs trade.

They pledged to freeze assets of terrorists and their organizations and boost airport and airplane security.

The EU will study deploying "sky marshals" on airlines.

Separately, the EU will compensate EU airlines for at least four days of business lost when the United States closed its airspace after the September 11 attacks against New York and Washington and provide war risk insurance coverage through at least November 30.

While in Luxembourg for the talks, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw telephoned his Israeli counterpart, Shimon Peres, "to express the shock of the British government" at the assassination of tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi.

"It is a deep shock. It is terrible news that underlines the need for there to be a peace process," said Straw. He added the killing underlined above all "the potential of extremists to disrupt that process."


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• European union

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