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Sunday, 25 November, 2001, 10:22 GMT
Rabbani vows to protect foreigners
Captured foreign fighters
Thousands of foreign fighters are supporting the Taleban
By the BBC's Peter Greste in Kabul

The man the Northern Alliance considers to be the president of Afghanistan, Burhanuddin Rabbani, says he has ordered his forces around the besieged city of Kunduz not to kill any foreign fighters, but to hold them for transfer to the United Nations.

Our view is that we are dealing with the Arabs in a humanitarian and Islamic basis. They should not have concern

Burhanuddin Rabbani
Ousted Afghan president
Afghan Taleban fighters who surrendered would be allowed to return to their homes and foreigners would be treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention, Mr Rabbani told a news conference in the capital Kabul.

A great fear of the western coalition has been the threat of an impending blood-bath in the besieged city of Kunduz.

With foreign fighters there convinced they will be murdered if they do not fight their way out, there was little room to negotiate a surrender.

Affordable generosity

But Mr Rabbani said allegations that his forces wanted to kill the foreigners were baseless.

Burhanuddin Rabbani
Mr Rabbani is still recognized by the UN as the Afghan president
He said the fighters would be "investigated" and then handed over to the UN for repatriation - and this, despite an incident in which some Arab prisoners reportedly blew themselves and one senior alliance commander up with a hidden grenade.

He also spoke of the UN-sponsored conference in Germany to discuss a broad-based interim government.

Perhaps alarmingly for the UN, Mr Rabbani repeatedly referred to the alliance as the Islamic State of Afghanistan - the name that referred to the government he led before the Taleban ousted him in 1996.

He said that, while the Taleban would not be allowed to take part in any interim government as an organisation, former Taleban officials might participate as individuals.

But Mr Rabbani can afford to be generous.

The state, he said, would hold 11 of the 20 seats at the conference in Bonn, giving it clear control over the agenda.

The BBC's Jacky Rowland in Kabul
"The Northern Alliance is trying to reassure the international community"
See also:

25 Nov 01 | South Asia
Rabbani 'still Afghan president'
24 Nov 01 | South Asia
Eyewitness: Defections in Kunduz
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
Q&A: What will Afghan talks produce?
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