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Q&A: How the deal was hammered out

KOENIGSWINTER, Germany (CNN) -- Omar Samad is the Director of the Afghanistan Information Centre, and is working as a CNN consultant during the meeting near Bonn, Germany.

Q. What happened on Wednesday?

A. After almost 10 days of gruelling negotiations among the Afghan parties here in Bonn, under the supervision of the U.N., with a dozen countries observing the event, we finally had an agreement signed by all the parties and it includes a list of the interim administration and its leadership.

First the U.N. bought the main delegation heads to sign the agreement, and then three other teams from the delegations were bought to co-sign the agreement, while the German chancellor and German foreign minister and the U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and his deputy were present, and some other delegates.

When the signing ceremony was over, all the guests and participants moved to the round table in the main hall and took their places, and the media was present while Lakhdar Brahimi gave his closing statement, saying that Afghans are now starting a new phase in their political life, and that there needs to be breathing room for reconstruction -- both economic and political -- and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

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He gave some fatherly and friendly advice as to how to approach the near future.

He introduced the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who spoke in German and was complimentary towards the U.N. and Afghans for having reached such a historic accord.

Following that, each delegation head spoke, saying they were also very grateful to the U.N. and to the German Government for having organised and hosted the conference.

They all promised to work towards the restoration of peace, security and reconstruction in Afghanistan.

The most impressive speech, according to the media, was given by said Yunus Qanooni, the future interior minister.

He referred several times to the Afghan resistance forces who have fought for their country's independence for the past 23 years -- first against the Soviets, then against the Taliban, and who are now in a position to reconcile with all other Afghan groups for a government of national unity and to fight for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the country.

He pledged that his faction would comply with the agreement to transfer power on December 22 to the new administration of which they are a major part themselves.

Q. What has been achieved?

A. There is an agreement that has been approved by all Afghan sides that spells out a road map for the next two, to two-and-a-half, years.

The first stage that the agreement specifies will last for six months, and is called the interim administration. It will comprise 29 members -- one head of administration and five deputies, and 23 members who will each be responsible for a governmental porfolio, or cabinet ministry.

Then at the end of the six months, they are planning to hold a traditional Afghan assembly, called a loya jirga.

The loya jirga will in turn select transitional government for an 18-month period during which time a constitutional commission will be charged to draft a new Afghan constitution.

At the end of that period, another loya jirga will be held to ratify the constitution and maybe pave the way for elections in the country.

Who was selected to hold posts in the interim government?

Hamid Karzai, who is a Pashtun tribal leader from the south, who is currently in Afghanistan leading an anti-Taliban force, and who was previously a politician as part of the former king's loya jirga process, was selected as the head of the interim administration before all the delegates.

There are five vice-chairmen -- one of those is a woman - and each represents a large group in the country, and all of whom are also occupying a post in the new administration.

The members are a mix of former technocrats and tribal leaders and political and military leaders, either in exile, or in Afghanistan.

About 60 to 70 percent of posts have been allocated to the Northern Alliance group, and with the exception of one or two positions, the rest -- including the chairmanship of the administration -- belong to the former king's group.

Some of the most important posts, such as foreign affairs, defence, and interior minister, have gone to the Northern Alliance group, while others with almost the same weight, like finance and reconstruction and education, have gone to the former king's group.

Q. Tell me more about the part played by women at the talks.

A. There were six women delegates from the four groups, and they participated very actively in the talks making their voices heard, making decisions, and also giving advice.

Q. What have the thorny issues been?

A. The thorniest issue was the question of who would be head of the administration and who would be the leaders. There was also the question of whether everyone agreed with these individuals, and if they would qualified to tackle the changes ahead, because the next six months will be an extremely challenging and difficult period for the transition to the post-Taliban era.

Other thorny issues included the question of an international security force, and the role for the former king.

Q. What was the mood at the talks?

At the signing, the mood was to a large extent joyous, even through there may have been some individuals who weren't totally satisfied with the outcome. But that is the nature of politics -- you have to give and take. You lose sometimes and you win sometimes.

On the whole, the talks, perhaps surprisingly, have been very cordial. Obviously there have been very strong disagreements on certain issues, or specific details, but those matters are resolved and discussed and debated either in the smaller gatherings, or in the private suites of the delegates, or in the hallways out of earshot.

When the representatives gathered round the negotiating table under U.N. supervision, there was a minimal amount of disagreement or clashes, because most of the differences had already been ironed out.

The U.N. and foreign observers played a crucial role in bridging the differences and facilitating the intra-Afghan negotiating process.

The dining room was a popular hangout for the delegates and people from various groups and delegations shared the same tables and socialised together.

There was a feeling of camaraderie on the surface, even though there are some sharp differences of policy or approach. It seems like they have been treated with great hospitality by the German hosts.

We saw an ethnic patchwork representing Afghanistan at the talks delegates wearing the traditional Afghan outfits, or the latest fashion designs. You also heard various languages of Afghanistan and also members of the former regimes, as well as the current faces in Afghanistan, all mingling together. It was a kaleidoscope of Afghanistan.

All facilities were put at their disposal, with food being served around the clock, and all sorts of other services being laid on - including the Internet and telephones so there were no hindrances to the talks moving forward.

Q. What about Ramadan?

A. Some delegates were observing Ramadan. When the sun set, those who were fasting left the negotiations and all gathered in the dining room to break fast together.

Q. How did the groups keep in touch with their colleagues who were not at the talks?

A. The only group that had representatives within Afghanistan was the Northern Alliance, and its representatives at the talks were in constant touch with their leaders -- using satellite phones -- in all parts of Afghanistan, not only in Kabul.

Q. What happens to the delegates now?

A. The delegations are in the process of packing and leaving Koenigswinter, and those who have been appointed to the positions are scheduled to be in Afghanistan within the next two weeks to start the work on the new administration.



 
 
 
 


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