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BBC Eurasia analyst Adrian Foreman
"Mr Masood is all that's left of the old order"
 real 28k

Thursday, 5 April, 2001, 06:14 GMT 07:14 UK
Europe fetes anti-Taleban leader
Ahmed Shah Masood press conference, Paris
The visit is a propagada coup for the Afghan opposition
By Justin Webb in Strasbourg

The commander of the Afghan opposition, Ahmed Shah Masood, is due to meet members of the European Parliament at Strasbourg in France.

On Wednesday he had talks with the French Foreign Minister, Hubert Vedrine, in Paris.

The visit is a major propaganda coup for the Afghan opposition and has infuriated the ruling Taleban militia.

Mr Masood will not address the whole European Parliament, but he will have talks with a number of key members representing all the main political groups.

Opposition fighters in Afghanistan
Masood controls a sliver of territory in the north-east of Afghanistan
He will also hold a news conference at which he will have the opportunity to make an impression on the wider European public.

The European Parliament has very little power to influence the foreign policies of the European Union's member governments, but it does provide an important forum for debate.

The parliament's president, Nicole Fontaine - who issued the invitation to the Afghan opposition leader - has called the Taleban regime "infamous and criminal", particularly with regard to its treatment of women.

It had, she said, banished itself from the civilized international community.

So Mrs Fontaine and her fellow European parliamentarians will be keen to learn from Mr Masood how the world community might assist in efforts to oppose the Taleban.

But the Taleban itself has complained that European support for Mr Masood will merely prolong Afghanistan's civil war.

It has certainly been a significant boost to opposition morale that might also persuade the Taleban of the need to do more to extinguish this source of annoyance to their regime.

The Teleban have said that European support for Mr Masood will merely prolong the civil war in Afghanistan.

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See also:

04 Apr 01 | South Asia
France welcomes Afghan rebel
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14 Feb 01 | South Asia
UN warns of Afghan catastrophe
16 Sep 00 | South Asia
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03 Aug 98 | South Asia
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