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Afghan talks: Deal on peacekeepers

The alliance's Qanooni changed his line on peacekeepers  

By CNN's Bettina Luscher

KOENIGSWINTER, Germany (CNN) -- The head of the Northern Alliance delegation says the alliance will not oppose an international peacekeeping force for Afghanistan while an interim government is being set up.

Younus Qanooni told reporters on Thursday: "Our official stand is that once a transitional mechanism is established, and the need for international force is inevitable, we are not opposed to the arrival of an international force."

In taking that stand at the U.N.-led talks near Bonn, the Northern Alliance was agreeing with the group representing the former Afghan king, and with the Northern Alliance foreign minister in Afghanistan.

Earlier, a U.N. spokesman said progress was being made among four Afghan groups on forming an interim government for the war-torn country, but he added, "We are not there yet."

Ahmad Fawzi said the U.N. special representative to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, had met with each of the groups separately.

CNN's Jim Bittermann says the head of the Northern Alliance could accept an international peacekeeping force (November 29)

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He said the talks went late into Wednesday night, but no consensus was reached. The talks are expected to last until Sunday.

Earlier, sources said representatives of the Northern Alliance and former Afghan king Mohammad Zahir Shah -- the two largest delegations -- agreed in principle that a transitional supreme council should be created to run the country.

But the delegates were still negotiating details of how that council would work. That council could have from 120 to 200 members, the sources said.

Those delegations remained at odds on security measures that would have to come first, sources in the meeting say.

They said two commissions were established within the conference to draw up lists of who should be on the council, and they hope to have those lists complete by end of the conference. The council would then pick Afghanistan's interim government.

But the delegates said implementation of the council depends on a resolution of the security issue.

Members of the king's group said there must be an international force in place in Kabul to make it neutral territory before formation of a new government can begin.

Earlier the Northern Alliance said it believed Afghans could handle the security themselves.

"We don't feel need for outside peacekeeping force, and at the moment, there is full security in place," said Yunis Qanooni, the Northern Alliance interior minister.

"If there is a need for extra security, then of course we can combine forces from different ethnic groups inside Afghanistan."

But in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance foreign minister left the door open for international peacekeepers.

"Our preference would be an Afghan force composed of all ethnic groups, of course under the U.N.," said Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul on Thursday.

"But if we have to go for a multinational peacekeeping force, we will consider it positively if it is needed, if it is required, in the light of developments, we will consider it positively. There is no dejection for that."

U.N. officials said they were upbeat about the progress so far. Delegates have literally rolled up their shirtsleeves for talks, they said, which have been heated but civilized.

Francesc Vendrell, the top deputy to the U.N.'s chief envoy for Afghanistan said there were "good indications" that most delegates representing Afghan factions would like to see the country's former king play some kind of a role in a post-Taliban Afghan political system.

In addition to delegates of the former king and the Northern Alliance, present at the talks are the "Peshawar Group," representing the millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, and the "Cyprus Group," representing an Iranian-backed group of Afghan exiles.

Vendrell said many steps must be taken before a permanent governmental system is set up.

But he said that now, there should be the development of guiding principles for a future government on issues such as human rights, representative government, pluralism, and respect for minorities.


• United Nations

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