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Afghan leaders look beyond Taliban

Conference venue
Security is tight at the talks venue, the Petersburg guest house at Koenigswinter  

By CNN Correspondents Ben Wedeman and Jim Bittermann

KOENIGSWINTER, Germany (CNN) -- Delegates to the summit conference of Afghan groups are continuing attempts to plan for an interim administration that would pave the way for a transitional authority that would govern the country for two years.

Ahmad Fawzi, a spokesman for Lakhdar Brahimi, the chief U.N. envoy for Afghanistan, told a news conference the delegates at the conference decided to spend three to five days in Bonn working on the plan and hoped to achieve an agreement on issues in that time period.

The United Nations opened the summit of Afghan factional leaders Tuesday to discuss the country's future and take the first steps toward building a post-Taliban government. Those attending are hoping the meeting will lead to a roadmap for the "formation of a fully represented, broad-based government."

Fawzi said the agenda calls for discussing the formation of an interim administration and an interim provisional council, for three to six months, or into the spring, leading to a loya jirga, or traditional Afghan grand assembly -- which would approve a transitional authority and supreme council, which then would govern the country up to two years. That would lead to a constitution and a final loya jirga.

Security in the country is also being discussed.

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Afghan role in new power game 

The Northern Alliance, or United Front, is among four Afghan groups attending the talks. The other groups include the "Rome Group," which represents former Afghan King Mohammad Zahir Shah, 87, who has been living in Italy since a 1973 coup; the "Peshawar Group," representing millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan; and the "Cyprus Group," representing an Iranian-backed group of Afghan exiles.

A phone call received after the morning meeting from an Afghan Pashtun leader summarised the feelings of all at the meeting, Fawzi said, quoting the leader as saying the meeting is the path to "salvation."

"He said we are one nation, one culture. We are united, not divided. We all believe in Islam, but we believe in an Islam that is a religion of tolerance. We have been made extremely poor and vulnerable, he said, but we are a strong people who would like to assert our will and sense of self determination."

Fawzi quoted one Afghan leader at the conference, who said "we have a thirst for peace." He said heads of the delegations are calling for national reconciliation and reconstruction, the propagation of human rights, a humane political system, and an end to the suffering of the Afghan people.

"Very encouraging words from the heads of the delegations this morning," Fawzi said.

Earlier, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer opened the summit by urging Afghan factional leaders "to forge a truly historic compromise" for the war-ravaged country.

Fischer said Afghanistan "has a great opportunity" now to develop a united, independent Afghanistan.

"A peaceful, stable Afghanistan is at the core of peace and stability in the whole region," Fischer said.

The hilltop hotel where the Afghan leaders are discussing plans for an interim government
The hilltop hotel where the Afghan leaders are discussing plans for an interim government  

And he told the representatives the Afghan people will not be left on their own when the conflict ends.

"Now you have to shoulder your responsibility to pave the way for a peaceful political future for your nation - a way which reflects your society's diversity and traditions and which will be acceptable to all Afghans. It is up to you the representatives of the Afghan people to seize this historic moment," Fischer said. "Germany, the EU (European Union) and the international community led by the United Nations stand ready to help now and in long term."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a message to the delegates, read by Brahimi:

"You who are taking this responsibility must show unprecedented courage and leadership. You must place the interests of your people first above all other concerns only then will this process, this attempt to break cycle of misery and destitution conflict and violence stand a chance of success," Brahimi read.

The mistakes of the past must not be defeated, according to the statement.

"You must prove them wrong and show that you can choose the path of compromise over conflict. it is essential now to create credible institutions in which all Afghans are represented and which are regarded as legitimate by the Afghan people.

"It is not the role or desire of the United Nations or of your neighbors to impose any particular arrangement on the Afghan people. these are decisions for Afghans to make and the U.N. role is to assist in this process."

The world is ready to assist Afghanistan in recovery and reconstruction, the message said.

"To do so however, it is essential that an Afghan government be in place to guide this process for the benefit of Afghan people. A critical responsibility for this government will be to respect and uphold the human rights of all its citizens - man, women and children."

After the morning session adjourned, the Afghan delegates planned to meet among themselves and will meet with U.N. officials this evening. Brahimi will be holding bilateral sessions with representatives of the international community.


• United Nations

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