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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 16:44 GMT
Cautious optimism in Kabul
Money market in Kabul
Money changers hope the accord will boost business
By BBC News Online's Marcus George and the BBC's William Reeve in Kabul

The appointment of Hamid Karzai to the leadership of the interim authority in Afghanistan has been generally welcomed on the streets of Kabul.

We hope that the talks in Bonn between the four main groups which have resulted in agreement will have a future for our nation

Kabul resident
It is after all the first time in nearly a decade of attempts to form a broad-based government that any agreement has been concluded.

Residents in the city have been glued to their radios awaiting news of who has been selected at the Bonn talks to sit on the six-month interim council.

Tribal and political allegiances were swept aside as people heard about Mr Karzai's appointment, and dared hope that at long last some sort of settlement for their country may be around the corner.

Man with radio set in Kabul
News from Bonn eagerly awaited
"I am glad he has been chosen," said Zabiullah, the owner of a hairdressing shop.

"Hamid Karzai is a very influential man among both Tajiks and Pashtuns who may be able to do great things for the future of Afghanistan."

There was also support for the Northern Alliance representatives who have been appointed to the foreign, interior and defence ministries.

Civilians' fears

But amongst the hope extreme caution is being expressed.

Over the past 10 years civilians suffered hugely in fighting between rival factions in Afghanistan, simply because these groups couldn't agree on how to share power.

Afghan President Rabbani
Many people want President Rabbani to step aside
Half of the capital, Kabul, was quite literally flattened in the early and mid-1990s before the Taleban seized power.

About 50,000 civilians were killed. Afghans therefore have reason to be cautious about the news from Bonn.

Repeatedly over the past few weeks, civilians have said with almost one voice that they want a large international force in Kabul to make sure that any settlement sticks.

When the transitional government arrives there will be more security in Afghanistan

Kabul money-changer
People on the streets of the capital, and indeed elsewhere in the country, just want peace.

They don't seem to mind who is in the interim administration, as they see this body as temporary, but they want to make sure that this and all the other stages in the process in Afghanistan over the coming years are peaceful ones.

Already the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif is very unstable indeed as three different groups there vie for power.

Rabbani's role

The future roles of former President Rabbani and the ex-king, Zahir Shah, have also been on people's minds.

He [Rabbani] should be prepared to give up his seat for the future stability of Afghanistan

Kabul policeman
"The people of this country have respect for Rabbani," said a traffic policeman.

"But he does not want to give away his position because he is now an old man and fears he may not have another role.

"He should be prepared to give up his seat for the future stability of Afghanistan."

There seems to be a consensus building for Zaher Shah to make a symbolic return to the country he left in the 1970s.

Money changer in Kabul
Traders in Kabul hope for more stability
"There are many tribes in Afghanistan. But under the king's rule there was no difference," the traffic policeman says. "We are all brothers and we must be so in the future."

"We all want him to return. He has many years of experience on running the country and during that time Afghanistan was peaceful."

But Afghans are realistic about this. They know the aged king will face his own difficulties in returning.

'Peace is good for business'

For now, money changers at the city exchange are not sure what to make of the agreement.

"The exchange rate has already changed and our money is getting stronger," said Said Karim, a money changer.

"Today is not great for me because I haven't changed any cash at all."

"But it is good anyway because when the transitional government arrives there will be more security in Afghanistan."

"Hopefully the agreement in Bonn will result in peace here and peace will be good for business."

Crucial few weeks

One view expressed repeatedly in Afghanistan is a hope that the United States and the West won't just desert the country once the campaign against Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda is over.

The West washed its hands of Afghanistan once the occupying Soviet Red Army had left the country in 1989.

Washington, the British Government and others have vowed that they will continue to lend all assistance to the process.

Ordinary Afghans want this assistance to have teeth, but they are yet to be convinced that it's on its way.

The following weeks will set the scene for the entrance of an international peace-keeping force.

A great deal of international pressure will be needed to change the nature of Tajik-dominated military power in Kabul.

In the meantime the outside world will be watching to see if Jamiat, holding the three most powerful ministries in the interim council, will fulfil its promises to share power and uphold democracy and peace in Afghanistan.

The BBC's Jacky Rowland
"Afghan politicians hope that this agreement will succeed where others have failed"
See also:

02 Nov 01 | South Asia
Karzai: King's powerful Pashtun ally
03 Dec 01 | South Asia
Unease on the streets of Kabul
04 Dec 01 | South Asia
Embassy refugees fear eviction
28 Nov 01 | South Asia
Bonn talks: Who is being heard?
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan's huge rebuilding task
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