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Europe: Fill Kabul vacuum quickly

The alliance triumphantly enters Kabul but a new government is needed
The alliance triumphantly enters Kabul but a new government is needed  

LONDON, England -- European leaders have been stressing the need for a new political regime to be installed in Kabul to fill the vacuum left by the retreating Taliban.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said the West would not "walk away" from the Afghan people, saying it was with them "for the long term."

But he said it was for local people to agree on a new government, which he said the West would support in the rebuilding of the country.

He added a new regime "has to be broad based if it is to be successful," incorporating various ethnic groups, including the majority ethnic Pushtun.

French President Jacques Chirac called for an interim government to be set up immediately.

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The United Nations said on Monday it wanted Afghan politicians to meet within days and provide the nucleus for a broad-based government to replace the Taliban.

European Commission External Affairs spokesman Gunnar Wiegand said the fall of the Taliban in the north of the country would open the way for deliveries of vital humanitarian aid.

Millions of Afghans have been displaced by two decades of war and three years of famine. The EU's efforts to distribute aid to these people have been handicapped by security problems in areas still controlled by the Taliban.

The commission is looking to deliver $13.27 million worth of aid, particularly for the area around Mazar-e Sharif, captured by the alliance last week.

"The situation is very fluid ... but clearly the last 48 hours have been very bad for the Taliban forces and the day is coming closer, let's hope, when they will be history in Afghanistan," Wiegand told a news conference.

"The events of the last 48 hours are good news because it does give us opportunity to get more aid into the country.

"However, we are not out of the woods yet and there is absolutely no room for complacency."

He said efforts to build a broad-based government now needed to be intensified, and singled out United Nations Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi as key to promoting international efforts to bring political stability to the country.

Tony Blair's spokesman added the military campaign would continue as long as Osama bin Laden, named by the United States as the prime suspect for the September 11 suicide plane attacks on New York and Washington, was at large.

"Those responsible for September 11, including bin Laden, have to be brought to account. The military campaign will go on," he said.


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