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Friday, 23 November, 2001, 19:33 GMT
Afghan talks delayed
Northern Alliance soldiers
There is distrust running throughout the Alliance
The start of the United Nations sponsored conference on the political future of Afghanistan has been delayed by one day.

The talks between representatives of Afghanistan's major ethnic and political groups will now open next Tuesday in the German city of Bonn.

I don't think we should have too high expectations that they are going to meet and immediately agree to the kind of plan we have put forward in the Security Council

Francesc Vendrell
UN envoy to Afghanistan
The UN says the delay is to allow participants enough time for preliminary discussions and to give people enough time to arrive.

Between 20 and 30 Afghan delegates are expected to attend the talks, which are intended to map the way for a broad-based coalition for post-Taleban Afghanistan.

However, the UN Deputy Representative to Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell, has warned against expecting too much from the conference, which could last for a week.

Tribal divisions

Mr Vendrell spoke of the distrust between the rival tribal groups in Afghanistan, and disagreements within the groups themselves.

Francesc Vendrell
Vendrell warned against expecting too much from the talks

"I don't think we should have too high expectations that they are going to meet and immediately agree to the kind of plan we have put forward in the Security Council," he said.

After talking to Northern Alliance leaders in Kabul, Mr Vendrell said the Hazaras were unhappy that the Tajik faction in the Northern Alliance was in control of Kabul, while the Pashtuns were pressing for a role in any future government.

Mr Vendrell also warned that an international force might be needed in Afghanistan.

As well as distrust on the domestic arena, there are international differences over who should take part in discussions over the future of Afghanistan.

International pressure

The international community has insisted on the need for a coalition that represents different ethnic, religious and political groups in Afghanistan.

UN peacekeepers
An international force may be required
Pakistan, an early sponsor of the mainly Pashtun Taleban movement, is anxious that the Northern Alliance should not dominate a future administration in Kabul.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar did not rule out the participation of so-called moderate Taleban leaders, saying that anyone who supported UN resolutions should be included.

Pakistan has spoken of "new forces" emerging in Afghanistan who, it says, should be represented at talks in Germany on the country's future.

The Northern Alliance say the Taleban have no role to play in a future coalition and should be excluded from the conference.

In this, they have the support of neighbouring Iran, which also insists the Taleban be excluded from any negotiations.

'Political farce'

According to the French news agency, AFP, the Northern Alliance will send 11 people to the talks.

The head of the delegation, Younis Qanooni, told AFP the delegation would include representatives from the Tajiks, the Uzbeks and the Hazaras, as well as political parties.

Former King Mohammad Zaher Shah is sending a delegation of eight, including two women.

The king's grandson, Mostapha Zaher, told journalists the Pashtuns would be represented along with other tribal groups.

The Taleban ambassador in Pakistan, Abdossalam Zayif, has dismissed the Bonn meeting as a "political farce" and insisted the Taleban would not take part.

Mr Vendrell has said that even though he does not expect an agreement on a new government, he is hopeful that some understandings could later be translated into an agreement.

The BBC's Jill McGivering
"Pakistan is no friend of the Northern Alliance"
Northern Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah
"Only if all ethnic groups are represented in a just manner will there be lasting peace"
See also:

22 Nov 01 | Middle East
Iran seeks curb on allied troops
22 Nov 01 | South Asia
Pakistan severs Taleban ties
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
Q&A: What will Afghan talks produce?
21 Nov 01 | South Asia
US hopeful before Afghan talks
22 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan women to attend talks
21 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan talks switch to Bonn
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