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Struggle commences for control of Afghanistan

Kandahar, Afghanistan
Journalists inspect ordnance that the Taliban said U.S. planes dropped outside Kandahar, Afghanistan.  

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Pro-Taliban and opposition leaders jostled for control of Afghanistan Monday, seeking to fill political vacuums left by Taliban military losses and to help form a broad-based transitional government.

There were conflicting reports about emerging power shifts in the key cities of Konduz, Kandahar and Jalalabad, and in the western province of Farah.

"Quite clearly, the (Afghan) government has collapsed," Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar told CNN Monday, speaking from Islamabad.

"I would say the government of Pakistan devotedly hopes that our Afghan brothers will recognize this moment in their history, [and] that they will make every effort to achieve consensus among themselves and form what is a generally a broad-based government that will enable the world community to help them reconstruct their country," Sattar added.

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The Northern Alliance, which moved into the Kabul last week following a Taliban withdrawal, had invited representatives of all Afghan factions to meet in the Afghan capital to assemble a new government.

But the United Nations would rather see the conference held in Europe, said Haron Amin, the opposition's U.N. representative.

Planning new government

Mohammed Zahir Shah, Afghanistan's former king, was deposed in a 1973 coup and has been living in Rome, Italy. He has offered to lead an interim government as a transitional figure but said he is not interested in restoring the Afghan monarchy.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday that women were expected to take part in helping rebuild their country.

"I want you to know that President Bush and this entire administration cannot imagine stable, post-Taliban Afghanistan without the involvement of women in all aspects of the humanitarian reconstruction and development efforts that will be undertaken," said Powell.

Meanwhile, in northern Afghanistan, Konduz was still in Taliban hands and controlled by Chechen, Pakistani and Arab hard-line fighters aligned with the Taliban. Northern Alliance Gen. Atiqullah Baryalai said the opposition was sending a delegation to Konduz to negotiate a possible Taliban surrender.

There were varying reports about who controlled Kandahar in the south.

According to Yousaf Pashtun, a spokesman for ethnic Pashtuns, tribal leaders inside Kandahar were negotiating with the Taliban about relinquishing power.

However, a Taliban military commander in Spin Boldak, a border town a three-hour drive from Kandahar, denied that any talks were taking place. Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Mohammed Omar remained in charge, he said.


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