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Tuesday, 20 November, 2001, 15:29 GMT
UN announces Afghan conference
UN special envoy for Afghanistan Francesc Vendrell (R) and Northern Alliance minister Abdullah Abdullah
The UN's envoy said the Taleban have not been invited
The United Nations and Afghanistan's ethnic groups are to meet in Germany on Monday for their first discussions on building a broad-based government for the country.

Speaking in Kabul, the UN special envoy, Francesc Vendrell, said the meeting would be as representative as it could be made in the short time available - but it was necessary to proceed quickly.

The Taleban leadership is far too identifiable with al-Qaeda for it to be a representative interlocutor

UN envoy Francesc Vendrell
Mr Vendrell said he hoped the meeting would be the first step towards a peaceful, united, independent Afghanistan - with a government that represented its people.

The Northern Alliance, which gained control of northern Afghanistan and Kabul last week, says it will attend.

But the retreating Taleban have not been invited.

Mr Vendrell said they were a regime "in the process of collapse".

Burhanuddin Rabbani
Rabbani has agreed to a multi-ethnic government

"Their leadership is far too identifiable with al-Qaeda for it to be a representative interlocutor," he told the BBC.

He added that Berlin would probably be the venue for the summit, but it was not yet clear.

Meanwhile, officials from about a dozen countries are to hold discussions in Washington on Afghanistan's post-war reconstruction.

The United States and Japan will host the talks, which will begin the process of assessing Afghanistan's most pressing post-war needs, such as agriculture, water, education and mine clearance.

Correspondents say the talks are not directly linked to the negotiations over Afghanistan's political future but they are designed to show the commitment of the United States and its partners to Afghanistan's long-term future.

European Union foreign ministers have already promised to give reconstruction aid to Afghanistan, but only if the country's new government respects human rights and international law.

In other developments:

  • US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the US opposes any deals to let Taleban leader Mullah Omar escape Afghanistan
  • Four journalists die in Afghanistan after gunmen ambush a convoy in which they were travelling
  • George W Bush holds a Ramadan dinner at the White House for officials from 53 Muslim nations
  • Kabul's Bakhtar cinema reopens for the first time in five years to a sell-out audience
  • Thousands of Afghan refugees are continuing to cross into Pakistan daily and more are expected, according to the UN refugee agency
  • Authorities in Uzbekistan obstruct the first British and French aid deliveries to northern Afghanistan
  • The BBC's Matt Frei, who has arrived in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, says the Taleban appear to be in control, but there are thousands of refugees in previously unknown camps
  • The deployment to Afghanistan of thousands of British soldiers is delayed after "discouraging" reports from advance troops

The confirmation of the Afghan conference came on Francesc Vendrell's fourth day of talks in the Afghan capital with key figures in the Northern Alliance and other tribal and faction leaders.