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Agreement expected in Afghan talks

KOENIGSWINTER, Germany (CNN) -- An announcement outlining the rough structure of an interim government for a post-Taliban Afghanistan is expected Sunday, after five days of talks in Koenigswinter, Germany, among four of the main groups which would share power in the new government.

Saturday, the U.S. observer at the talks said a major obstacle had been removed from the discussions in the past 24 hours, although he would not specify what it was.

In addition, observer James Dobbins said the Northern Alliance has agreed to provide a list of people it thinks should be involved in the future government before the meeting here ends.

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The main meetings have ended for the night, although some individual meetings are still going on. The session will resume Sunday.

Dobbins credited pressure from public opinion in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance coalition itself and various countries interested in the outcome of the talks for the about-face.

A senior U.S. official identified those countries as Britain, Germany, Russia, Iran and the United States, as well as U.N. officials.

Representatives of each contacted Afghanistan's former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who is expected to have some role -- as yet unspecified -- in the future government, and tried to convince him that the meeting here must succeed.

The advances came as representatives of Afghanistan's many ethnic, religious and political groups worked for a fifth day to hammer out an interim post-Taliban government.

Toward that end, Northern Alliance sources said their delegation has submitted a proposal for a short-term transitional administration.

In the proposal being considered, an interim administration made up of about 25 people who would be identified before the delegates leave would run the government for three to six months before a loya jirga, or traditional Afghan council, would take power.

The proposal also calls for ending the legal status of Afghanistan's former government under Rabbani, effectively removing him as president, though he would be given an as-yet unspecified role, U.N. spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said.

The Rabbani government had been recognized internationally, even after the Taliban unseated him in 1996.

In addition to the Northern Alliance delegation, the three groups at the table are: the Rome delegation representing former Afghan king Mohammad Zahir Shah; the "Peshawar Group," representing the millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, and the "Cyprus Group," representing an Iranian-backed group of Afghan exiles.

The talks had been scheduled to end by Saturday, and hopes that the four sides would reach a deal had been high. But a delay by the Northern Alliance in producing the list had appeared to jeopardize their outcome.

Fawzi said the factions were near agreement on establishing a multinational security force, which would remain on the ground until an all-Afghan force can be established.

--CNN Correspondents Bettina Luescher and Jim Bittermann contributed to this report.


• United Nations

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