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Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 19:29 GMT
Afghan talks switch to Bonn
Refugees fleeing the city of Kunduz
Afghans are hoping for a more stable future
Talks on the future of Afghanistan have been switched to Bonn from Berlin, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

The UN-sponsored talks starting on Monday will bring together representatives of four major ethnic groups to help form a post-Taleban government in the country.

I return a good deal more optimistic than when I left

James Dobbins
US envoy
"It is now firm. It will be Bonn and not Berlin," UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

He said Lakhdar Brahimi, the senior UN official who convened the conference "preferred getting out of the hubbub of the city to a more private place".

Mr Eckhard said delegates would meet in "a chateau that has been turned into a conference centre" but declined to name it.

The French news agency AFP, quoting informed sources, said the talks would be at the Petersberg conference centre outside Bonn.

'Suspicion and anxiety'

Delegations will represent groups including the Northern Alliance, Pashtun tribes from southern Afghanistan and supporters of exiled king Mohammad Zahir Shah.

Though the talks will be hosted in Germany, the government says it is not expecting to take an active part.

"The conference is planned... in such a way that it will be a purely internal Afghan meeting under the leadership of, and hosted by, the United Nations," foreign ministry spokeswoman Sabine Sparwasser said.

Lakhdar Brahimi
Lakhdar Brahimi wants the talks to be in a more private place
Bonn was the capital of West Germany before reunification of the country in 1990. Berlin is the new capital.

The US Government's Central Asia envoy says he is optimistic that the meeting will produce a broad-based government for Afghanistan.

James Dobbins, who has spent the past two weeks in the region before returning to Washington, said "high levels of suspicion and anxiety" remained among anti-Taleban factions but opinion was less divergent than he had expected.

"I return a good deal more optimistic than when I left that we have an opportunity to promote the early development of a broad-based government in Afghanistan which the international community can assist," he said.

Tribal tensions

However, there is still considerable tension among the groups.

Many Pashtuns are wary of the Northern Alliance - which is dominated by minority Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras - and want to see international peacekeepers deployed in Afghanistan.

But the Northern Alliance is reluctant to share military control with foreign troops.

Mr Dobbins said the alliance was ready to form a power-sharing government, recognising it would need to have full southern and Pashtun participation.

See also:

21 Nov 01 | South Asia
US hopeful before Afghan talks
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
Q&A: What will Afghan talks produce?
16 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan powerbrokers: Who's who
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