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Tuesday, 20 November, 2001, 20:47 GMT
Talks to map out Afghanistan's future
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 the German capital of Berlin on Monday for their first discussions on building a broad-based government for the country.

The UN special representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, wants the talks to decide the make-up of a small, transitional authority to take control in the Afghan capital Kabul and fill the power vacuum left by the Taleban's fall.

Because of the fast, developing situation on the ground, [we are suggesting to] go straight to the small authority that is going to Kabul and be the provisional authority

Lakhdar Brahimi

Mr Brahimi said both the United Nations and Afghan political leaders had agreed on the need to move quickly and bypass earlier UN proposals for a slower, step-by-step process towards forming the new government.

"Because of the fast, developing situation on the ground, what we are already suggesting is that let's try and go straight to the small authority that is going to Kabul and be the provisional authority, the provisional administration of Afghanistan," he said.

Burhanuddin Rabbani
Northern Alliance leaders agreed to meet outside Afghanistan

Speaking in Kabul, UN special envoy Francesc Vendrell said the meeting would be as representative as it could be in the short time available.

Mr Brahimi said he was expecting around 30 representatives of different Afghan political factions to attend the gathering.

Our correspondent says the four main groups participating are: Northern Alliance representatives; supporters of the exiled Afghan king in Rome; Iranian-backed Afghans; and Pakistan-backed Afghans, representing mainly Pashtun leaders.

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

UN envoy Francesc Vendrell
The Northern Alliance, which gained control of northern Afghanistan and Kabul last week, said it would attend, but the Taleban have not been invited.

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

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

In other developments:

  • Taleban forces besieged in the northern city of Kunduz are given three days to surrender
  • The bodies of four journalists killed by gunmen in Afghanistan on Monday are recovered and identified
  • A group of women in Kabul take off their burqas, in a symbolic demand for basic rights
  • The first UN aid shipments for a week head into Afghanistan
  • The second-in-command of al-Qaeda says its fight against the US will continue whatever happens to Osama Bin Laden, Pakistan's Jang newspaper says
  • BBC correspondents in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar say the Taleban appear to be in control, but there are thousands of refugees in previously unknown camps

Reconstruction talks

Meanwhile, officials from some 22 countries are holding discussions in Washington on Afghanistan's post-war reconstruction.

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

"We are going to have an enormous obligation, not only the United States but the whole international community, to not leave the Afghan people in the lurch, and not to walk away as has been done in the past," US Secretary of State Colin Powell told delegates.

He urged the representatives to form a steering committee "to help focus efforts at policy level" and another committee to oversee the implementation of the assistance.

The World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the UN Development Program will convene a second reconstruction meeting next week in Islamabad, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

"At that meeting, they will begin to work even more on a very detailed needs assessment that eventually will result in looking for funding," Mr Boucher said.

Berlin gathering

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

Northern Alliance tank crew
Northern Alliance troops control Kabul and the north

In the south-east of Kabul, various Pashtun tribes are reportedly beginning to form a coherent, unified position on the shape of a future Afghanistan.

The BBC's Kabul correspondent, Kate Clark, says the tribes pushing a strongly peace-oriented agenda, demanding a UN-sponsored loya jirga - a grand assembly of the nation's elders - to choose a new leader for Afghanistan.

The BBC's Ben Brown reports from Kabul
"The UN it will find it desperately difficult to get an agreement at these talks"
Francesc Vendrell, UN Envoy for Afghanistan
"The Taleban have not been invited"
Robert Templar from the International Crisis Group
"I think something will be reached"
See also:

20 Nov 01 | South Asia
Q&A: What will Afghan talks produce?
15 Nov 01 | South Asia
UN passes resolution on Afghan rule
15 Nov 01 | South Asia
Race to prevent Afghan disintegration
16 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan powerbrokers: Who's who
14 Nov 01 | South Asia
Rabbani's Afghan comeback
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