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Friday, 30 November, 2001, 21:35 GMT
Q&A: Afghan talks progress
The BBC's Paul Reynolds looks at how the historic conference aimed at mapping Afghanistan's political future is unfolding.

What has been decided so far?

After optimism on Day Three, Day Four started with a problem. Abdul Qadir, a senior Pashtun, was angry at the lack of what he felt was proper Pashtun representation at the talks.

Such tactics indicate that the going could be tough and that nothing will be agreed until everything is agreed.

The interim council and larger oversight body have been agreed in principle which is a major step forward.

The North Alliance has also accepted the need for an international peacekeeping force as part of the overall package. But not for now.

It says that there is no need and reports from Washington indicate that the Americans don't at this stage want an international force getting in the way of combat operations.

What sticking points remain?

One argument is about how large the new bodies should be - essentially dictating who will really be in control - who its members should be, and what its powers will be.

This is the meat and potatoes of the negotiation and it is not surprising that it is taking time to resolve.

Is the walkout by Pashtun leader Haji Abdul Qadir significant?

The walkout presented the talks with a problem but not a breakdown.

Haji Abdul Qadir was second in the Northern Alliance delegation and was angry at what he regarded as the lack of representation of the main tribal group, the Pashtuns.

They have not had a separate delegation.

However, the talks themselves have continued with the UN saying that "the show must go on".

The real significance of the walkout might come much later.

It could be a sign of Pashtun unhappiness which might have consequences if not properly addressed.

Is there common ground on who should lead an interim body?

There was no consensus on the make-up and exact structure of the interim bodies by late afternoon on Friday.

This has occupied the negotiators for a long time and constitutes the heart of the talks.

The two main delegations - the Northern Alliance and the exiled king's group - have their own lists.

Is the king emerging as a central figure?

Exiled king Zahir Shah has not been the central figure as some, including the Americans, had wanted.

He is, after all, an elderly man in his 80s and represents a strand of Afghan society which is seen by some Afghans as the past.

The Northern Alliance said on Friday that the king's role had not been discussed.

But some kind of position for him, even if symbolic, could be important in gaining the support of the Pashtuns, of which he is one.

Former president Burhannudin Rabbani has called for women to get the vote. How likely is that?

Contrary to public impressions, there has always been a radical streak in Afghan society.

It was not always tribesmen in headgear and with Kalashnikovs.

Women once sat in the Afghan Parliament and it is probable that they will get the vote as part of these negotiations.

What happens if there is no agreement?

It is back to the warlord scenario, with local commanders controlling local areas. And maybe the Taleban could stage a comeback in some places.

That is not a good scenario, everyone agrees and partly why most people think that there will be some sort of agreement.

The UN deputy special envoy Francesc Vendrell remarked that people were discussing the future of Afghanistan for the first time in 28 years and were not gong to resolve everything in four or five days.

Links to more South Asia stories are at the foot of the page.


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