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Afghan conference planned in Europe

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The United Nations is planning to convene a meeting of Afghanistan's ethnic groups, probably in Europe.

It would be a first step toward the building of a broad-based transitional post-Taliban Afghan government.

Some reports are saying that the meeting will be in Germany, possibly Berlin, on Saturday.

Francesc Vendrell, the deputy of U.N. envoy to Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi, continues to hold meetings in Kabul with various Afghan leaders to discuss the political transition.

In an interview with CNN, Burhanuddin Rabbani, president of the United Front-led government of the Islamic State of Afghanistan, said he accepted the plan to have the first meeting outside Afghanistan.

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He said the gathering will be symbolic, however. He said later talks on a post-Taliban government must be held in Afghanistan.

According to the United Nations, Vendrell Sunday met separately with Rabbani, Abdul Rabb Rasul Saayyaf, head of Ettehad Islami, one of the components of the United Front, and with the representatives of the Shuras from the Pashtun south of Afghanistan.

A U.N. spokesman said at a press briefing that Vendrell met during the last 24 hours with Paul Zergue, British special envoy to the Northern Alliance, and with a delegation of the Russian Federation. Also, he was to meet with an Iranian diplomat.

Vendrell is also hoping to meet with the leaders of Hazara groups within the next few days. He held a meeting with Abdullah Abdullah, the foreign minister of the United Front.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan -- who was in Canada over the weekend meeting with the country's leaders as well as international financial officials -- repeated his call for a broad-based government in Afghanistan, warning of the complications that would ensue if a single faction sought to assert power.

"We are trying to get all the Afghan parties together," Annan told reporters in Ottawa following a meeting with Prime Minister Jean Chrétien on Saturday. "Obviously we hope all Afghan parties and leaders will understand the need to form a broad-based government and set up an administration in Kabul that will be acceptable by all."

"If they do not do that and one group tries to control power and assert itself, it is going to create problems down the line," said Annan, who made his comments in response to a question on the role of Rabbani. "I would hope that Mr. Rabbani also is aware of this since he knows intimately the history of his own country," Annan said.

"We will be pressing ahead trying to get them to discuss a broad-based government in which power will be shared by all the groups and I would hope everyone will cooperate," he said.


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