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Straw lobbies Afghan neighbours

Straw said discussions with the Iranian foreign minister had been constructive  

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has arrived in the Pakistan capital of Islamabad where he will meet top U.N. and Pakistani officials to discuss putting together a broad-based government in Afghanistan.

Straw held talks in Tehran with Iranian Foreign Minister Dr Kamal Kharrazi on Thursday before meeting Northern Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.

The United States and Britain want to see a broad-based, multi-ethnic government replace the Taliban movement in Afghanistan.

Islamabad wants Pashtuns, who form Afghanistan's largest ethnic group and who dominate much of Pakistan's border regions, to take a leading role in a future government. Tehran wants the minority Shi'ite Muslims to be represented.

Straw told the UK Press Association he had "very constructive discussions" with Kharrazi.

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"I expressed my appreciation to the government of Iran for the encouragement which they have given to the Northern Alliance, with which they have been closely associated, to ensure that they in turn were committed to that broad-based, multi-ethnic government," he said.

Straw said the Northern Alliance's military success was a result of the overwhelming assistance they had received from the United States, backed up by the UK.

After meeting Straw, Kharrazi told reporters he doubted whether the Afghans wanted to see more foreign troops deployed on their soil.

"This is a very sensitive issue to Afghans. Never have they been happy for any foreign troops to be stationed in their country. I believe Afghans to not prefer to have foreign troops on their soil," he told PA.

Kharrazi said there might be a role for some former Taliban followers in a new government. "There are people who have been working with the Taliban government but not affiliated to the mentality of the Taliban," he said.

"They can be helpful to the new government. I don't call them moderate Taliban elements, I just call them Afghans who happen to be working for the Taliban as experts, administrators, ordinary Afghans."

Kharrazi held talks with Abdullah on a future government in Afghanistan on Wednesday in Tehran.

Abdullah told Kharrazi the alliance would adopt a "policy of leniency and forgiveness," and would "refrain from resorting to harsh policies in shaping Afghanistan's future socio-political atmosphere," the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Straw is expected meet Pakistan's Pesident, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, early on Friday before leaving the city by midday, the sources said.

The trip is Straw's second visit to the region since the September 11 attacks on the United States.


• UK Foreign Office
• The Iranian President
• The Pakistan Government

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