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Afghan factions sign power deal

KOENIGSWINTER, Germany (CNN) -- Delegates at U.N.-sponsored talks in Germany have signed a landmark accord to set up a post-Taliban government in Afghanistan representing a broad range of ethnic groups and regions.

Earlier on Wednesday Afghan factions named Pashtun tribal leader Hamid Karzai as the interim administrator for the transitional government, which will include two women.

The agreement, crafted by U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and four Afghan factions, was signed at a hotel near Bonn shortly after 10 a.m. (0900 GMT) with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer in attendance.

The transfer of power from Northern Alliance leader Burhanuddin Rabbani to Karzai was scheduled for December 22, though the list of the ruling administration was not complete.

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The consensus on the cabinet secures large sums of aid to reconstruct the country.

Karzai is not in Bonn, but near Kandahar, commanding forces fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda members around the city.

Brahimi urged the delegates to seize the chance to end more than two decades of war and civil strife in Afghanistan.

"Nowhere is the feeling of hope greater than among the people of Afghanistan, who during 23 years of tragedy and loss have maintained the hope that peace and stability could be restored one day in their country," he told the conference's closing session.

The agreement establishes a 29-member interim cabinet headed by Karzai, meant as the first step toward a broad-based government representing the range of Afghanistan's ethnic groups and regions.

However, Brahimi acknowledged that the delegations represented only part of Afghan society and urged the new interim leadership to integrate all of the country's ethnic and religious groups and also women.

Applause rang out as delegates signed the accord in a brief ceremony attended by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. The German leaders shook hands with the Afghan envoys and Brahimi embraced them after they all signed.

After intense haggling over posts, the Northern Alliance controls more than half of the ministries, including the powerful defence, foreign and interior portfolios.

The delegation of Rome-based exiles loyal to the former king Zahir Shah received at least eight ministries, including the finance, education and reconstruction posts.

Two women were named to posts -- Sima Samar, one of five deputy premiers as minister of women's affairs, and Suhaila Seddiqi as health minister.

The four factions negotiating Afghanistan's political future sought to achieve a balance representing Afghanistan's main Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara ethnic groups -- and also women, who have been virtually excluded from public life under the Taliban.

The interim administration would be in power for six months, or until a special commission could convene an initial, emergency loya jirga, or traditional Afghan council, U.N. spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told reporters on Sunday.

"I hope that the tomorrow of Afghanistan and the tomorrow of this agreement will be the tomorrow of national unity and the tomorrow of peace," said Yunus Qanooni, future interior minister, "and a tomorrow which Afghans will build their common home."

After the signing ceremony, Brahimi said: "If there is one thing that the world has learned, it is that the situation in Afghanistan is far too complex." Afghanistan has suffered through 23 years war, including civil war and Soviet occupation.

"What this agreement represents is a breathing space, an interim period which the people of Afghanistan can take the first of many steps that will be required before a broad-based, multi-ethnic and truly-represented government can be established," Brahimi added.

A transitional government would precede the establishment of any final council, he said. No one would serve in both the interim government and the commission choosing the loya jirga, he added.

During the interim, a supreme court and other entities would be convened, Fawzi said. A commission to draft a new constitution would be created within two months, he said. The proposal contains no provisions for amnesty for human rights violations committed in Afghanistan.

Parts of Afghanistan's 1963 constitution, which was in place during the monarchy, were used to create the draft proposal, a source said, though no formal role for the king is envisioned in a new government.

Qanooni said the Afghan delegations had surprised the world with their agreement.

"There were all sort of rumours, there were all sorts of expectations that Afghans can never achieve peace," he said.

"But now Afghans have proved that to achieve peace with Afghanistan and to deliver their country to a brighter future, Afghans can give up their possessions and compromise their possessions."

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the signing was "a significant achievement."

"This is a victory for the coalition against terrorism. A stable Afghanistan, with a broad-based government, is as important to our own security as it is to the Afghan people. This really is one world.

"There is now much work to be done on the ground in Afghanistan to turn this agreement into the reality of a stable nation at peace with itself and the world."

The groups at the table were the Northern Alliance, the Rome delegation representing the former Afghan king, the "Peshawar Group," representing the millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, and the "Cyprus Group," representing an Iranian-backed group of Afghan exiles.

Top positions in the interim government include Mohammad Fahin -- deputy chairman and defense minister; Haji Mohammad Mohatteq -- deputy chairman and minister for planning; Hedayat Arsala -- deputy chairman and finance minister; Abdullah Abdullah -- foreign minister; Yunus Qanooni -- interior minister.

-- Berlin Bureau Chief Bettina Luscher contributed to this report.



 
 
 
 


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