As military strikes in Afghanistan continue to punish the country's ruling Taliban, leaders from around the world are pushing for the creation of a replacement government before opposition groups control the capital of Kabul.
Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov agreed during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Ministerial Meeting in Shanghai Wednesday that the future government of Afghanistan should enjoy broad support and represent the interests of all ethnic groups in the country.
They agreed that the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan should be guaranteed, Xinhua news agency reported.
Afghan politicians, fighters from the hills, the elderly ex-king's men and even some dissident Taliban will meet this weekend, under pressure from Pakistan and the United States, to try to agree on a broad-based, multi-ethnic government to replace the hard-line Taliban regime.
The fear in Washington, Islamabad and other capitals is that the Taliban might fall before the opposition can agree on the makeup of a new government. That, in turn, could plunge the country into even deeper anarchy, The Associated Press reported.
"The political process needs to be placed on a fast track in order to forestall the possibility of a political vacuum," Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf warned on Tuesday after a meeting with visiting US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
"It should not lag behind the fast-moving events in the military field, nor should any attempt be made by any warring faction to impose itself on Afghanistan," he said.
Among the proposals for organizing a new government is one calling for the 87-year-old former king, Mohammad Zaheer Shah, to convene a grand council of all political groups to map out the future administration of Afghanistan.
Afghans who favor that option will gather on Saturday in the border city of Peshawar to try to agree on a list of participants for the grand council, or loya jirga.
They would include leaders of the majority Pashtun tribes, representatives of the opposition northern alliance, allies of the exiled monarch and any of the Taliban willing to accept that the militant Islamic movement can no longer rule alone.
The northern alliance had agreed to participate with the king in such a council. However, on Tuesday, the alliance said it should not be convened for two or three years after their leader, deposed president Burhanuddin Rabbani, takes power in an interim government.
"The king is the only answer," said Ishaq Gailani, head of the Solidarity Movement of Afghanistan, based in Peshawar.
Gailani, who has close links to the former king, wants a future government in Afghanistan that includes neither Taliban nor northern alliance.
"Any government that includes either warring groups will fail," he said.
During his four years in power, Rabbani was unable to control the warring factions which are today allied with him in the opposition.
(eastday.com.cn October 18, 2001)