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Tuesday, 11 December, 2001, 17:26 GMT
UN upbeat on Kabul peacekeepers
Mohammad Rahim and Lakhdar Brahimi
Rahim and Brahimi: More smiles than substance?
The United Nations special envoy for Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi has said that the country's interim leaders have no objection to the deployment of an international peacekeeping force.

I can say that there is no opposition from the authorities for an international military presence

Lakhdar Brahimi
He was speaking after a day of talks in the capital, Kabul.

But the country's interim Defence Minister, General Mohammad Fahim, earlier said that he thought the force should be limited to only 1,000 soldiers, whose role would be to guard government buildings.

For his part, Mr Brahimi said he had not discussed operational details during his talks.

Mr Brahimi had earlier held talks with new Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, as well as Mr Fahim and outgoing President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

However, he was unable to meet the head of the interim administration, Hamid Karzai, who remains in Kandahar, following last week's surrender of the Taleban authorities there.

The UN office in Kabul said Mr Brahimi might still meet Mr Karzai on Wednesday, before the UN official flies to Pakistan for talks with President Pervez Musharraf.

British role

At the Bonn peace talks, a pledge was made to demilitarise Kabul before the deployment of UN-mandated peacekeepers, but on Monday the Northern Alliance insisted that it would not withdraw all of its troops from the city.

Rashid Dostum
Mr Dostum says he will not resist the new government
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has said Britain is willing "in principle" to play a leading role in establishing a peacekeeping force for Afghanistan.

Speaking following talks with US Secretary of State Colin Powell in London on Tuesday, Mr Blair said decisions on the deployment of a force would have to be made "relatively quickly".

But he said there was still "an immense amount of details to be decided and discussions to be had" before any force was put in place.

Voices of dissent

The issue of peacekeeping troops is just one of the problems facing Afghanistan's new government.

It is due to take office on 22 December, but there has already been serious division over the allocation of power.

The dissent has focussed on the allocation of all of the three key ministries - defence, foreign and interior - to members of Mr Rabbani's Jamiat-e-Islami party.

The three ministries went to men from the Panjshir Valley, the stronghold of slain Northern Alliance commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, who was assassinated on 9 September.

But Mr Brahimi said after his talks in Kabul that the transition on track.

"The three key ministries haven't just been given to one party in the alliance, but to one district of Panjshir. This is unfair," said Rashid Dostum, an alliance warlord who controls Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.

It had been feared that Mr Dostum would block the new government because of his objections, but the UN says it has been reassured that this will not happen.

In a message to the UN's special representative to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, Mr Dostum, who controls large areas of the north of the country, said he would not support any efforts to derail the power-sharing deal reached in Bonn.

UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi
"The force will come as a friend not as an enemy"
See also:

10 Dec 01 | UK
Pivotal role for UK troops
08 Dec 01 | South Asia
The challenge of Afghan peacekeeping
11 Oct 01 | South Asia
UN's new peacemaker
05 Dec 01 | South Asia
Guide to Afghan deal
25 Sep 01 | South Asia
Profile: General Rashid Dostum
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