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Sunday, 25 November, 2001, 13:01 GMT
Key groups to attend Afghan talks
Zahir Shah
Exiled king Zahir Shah is seen as a rallying point
By the BBC's regional analyst Pam O'Toole

Last minute efforts are under way to finalise the guest list for a crucial conference on Afghanistan to be held in Bonn on Tuesday.

So far only four main groups are said to be attending - representatives of the Northern Alliance, which has won huge military victories in Afghanistan over recent weeks; representatives of the former king, and delegations from two organisations known as the Cyprus Group and the Peshawar group.

The Northern Alliance says its team will be headed by its interior minister Younis Qanooni.

He is a member of the dominant Jamiat Islami party, led by ousted president Burhanuddin Rabbani.

It is not clear if Mr Rabbani himself will attend.

Tension

Over recent days he has spoken scathingly about the Bonn meeting.

Francesc Vendrell
UN envoy Francesc Vendrell warns not to expect too much
And there have been rumours of tensions between himself and other Northern Alliance leaders.

In the past, the Alliance's disparate parties have often only been united by their opposition to common enemies.

Its real commitment to power-sharing has yet to be tested.

The former king, Zahir Shah, is also sending a delegation representing a broad range of ethnic groups and political opinions.

The king himself is regarded as a potential rallying point for the nations and particularly for Afghanistan's substantial Pashtun community.

It lacks a single strong political leader following the collapse of the Teleban.

But he is likely to be only a figurehead in any interim administration.

The United States is keen to ensure some kind of role for him.

But despite his insistence that he has no ambitions to restore the monarch, Iran is still suspicious of the idea of him playing a prominent role.

The third delegation will be assembled by another pro- king figure, Pir Gailani.

He is the spiritual leader of a small religious party and was perhaps the most moderate member of the seven party mujaheddin government in 1992.

He is now perceived to be backed by Pakistan.

The final group - known as the Cyprus group - is thought to be close to Iran.

It is a collection of Afghan politicians and representatives of smaller mujaheddin groups who have met periodically over the past few years to discuss new ways of bringing peace to Afghanistan.

Their meetings have been attended by a broad spectrum of people - including the son-in-law of the radical Islamic mujaheddin leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Ahmad Fawzi, UN spokesman
"The idea is to keep the parties talking until we find an agreement"
Burhanuddin Rabbani
"This government should be recognised as the legitimate government of Afghanistan"
Ghoulam Farouqazam, former Rabbani govt. minister
"He was always reluctant to share power"
See also:

25 Nov 01 | South Asia
Rabbani 'still Afghan president'
23 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan talks delayed
21 Nov 01 | South Asia
US hopeful before Afghan talks
22 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan women to attend talks
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
Q&A: What will Afghan talks produce?
14 Nov 01 | South Asia
Rabbani's Afghan comeback
12 Nov 01 | Americas
Powers search for Afghan settlement
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