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Tuesday, 4 December, 2001, 14:10 GMT
Afghan talks approach final hurdle
An Afghan girl holds a small child
The hopes of many Afghans ride on the UN plan
The four Afghan factions holding talks in Bonn are discussing the make-up of an interim government, after they reached agreement on a United Nations blueprint for rebuilding the country's political system.

As the talks entered their eighth day, the delegates were due to agree which faction gets which job in a 29-member cabinet-style interim authority, which is set to rule until a broader-based government can be set up.

UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told reporters that he hoped a deal could be finalised and signed by Wednesday.

Some reports say the top job in the new administration may go the Pashtun leader Hamid Karzai, who is currently fighting the Taleban near their last stronghold of Kandahar.

UN blueprint
Interim authority to rule for six months
A supreme court to be set up
A 21-member special independent commission to call a traditional assembly, or Loya Jirga
Loya Jirga to elect transitional government
A multinational force to secure Kabul

The Northern Alliance's foreign affairs spokesman, Abdullah Abdullah - an ethnic Tajik - is also believed to be in line for a senior position.

Dr Abdullah said one of the five vice presidents to be appointed in the provisional government will be a woman.

Choosing the interim administration is a delicate balancing act given Afghanistan's complicated ethnic and tribal mix, and the four factions have put forward many more names - about 150 according to the UN - than there are jobs available on the interim authority.

Jubilation

Following a marathon session, the factions reached agreement on a framework for a future government early on Tuesday morning, after the Northern Alliance, which is the largest delegation, submitted its list of candidates for the interim administration.

"There was a general feeling of jubilation when we finished. There were tears in some eyes, including my own," said Mr Fawzi.

Mostafa Zahir of the Rome faction (right) chats with an unidentified delegation member at the talks
The factions appear to have found some common ground at last

But he also warned that choosing the members of the interim cabinet, particularly its chairman, would be tough.

The UN-brokered text of the framework agreement has not been released, but earlier drafts included proposals to set up a special commission to convene a Loya Jirga, or traditional grand assembly.

The former King, Zahir Shah, is expected to participate in the assembly, though it is not clear if he will open it, as some of his supporters have called for.

The interim administration will rule for six months until this assembly is convened.

The assembly would then elect a transitional government to rule for about two years until a constitution was drawn up and elections were held.

Supreme Court

Another measure foreseen under the UN blueprint is the creation of a supreme court, which correspondents say may be aimed at creating a role for Northern Alliance leader Burhanuddin Rabbani, whose opposition to some key decisions has delayed a final agreement.

Mr Rabbani, who never wanted talks on Afghanistan's political future to take place outside Kabul, had argued that the composition of the cabinet be decided later in the Afghan capital.

The UN text also proposes a multinational peacekeeping force for Kabul, but does not stipulate the force's size, mandate or duration.

UN spokesman Mr Ahmad Fawzi
Ahmad Fawzi: Tears in his eyes
The text says peacekeepers would be deployed at the Afghan administration's request.

The Northern Alliance, which controls the capital Kabul, has softened its initial opposition to such a force.

But the BBC's Peter Biles says one potential problem with the peacekeeping force lies in the fact that it will not be in place until some time after the creation of the new government.

He says that may concern members of Afghanistan's majority Pashtun community, who are not well represented within the Northern Alliance, and who may be reluctant to return home to Kabul without guarantees about security.

The agreement comes after big donor countries kept up pressure on the Afghan factions, warning them that billions of dollars in reconstruction aid depended on a deal being reached.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Phillipa Thomas
"They are still deciding who should get which cabinet portfolio
Ishaq Shahryar, Afghan King's Federation
"I think we are almost done"
UN spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi
"It is not an imposed text"
Northern Alliance leader Burhanuddin Rabbani
"I'm not in love with the position of President, I'm in love with my country"
See also:

04 Dec 01 | South Asia
Afghan women want their voices heard
30 Nov 01 | South Asia
Leading Pashtun quits Afghan talks
25 Nov 01 | South Asia
Rabbani 'still Afghan president'
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