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Friday, 25 January, 2002, 15:39 GMT
UN names Afghan powerbrokers
Kofi Annan is met at airport by mine clearance experts with their sniffer dogs
Annan is the first UN leader in Kabul for 40 years
The United Nations has named the members of a key commission to oversee Afghanistan's political process, during a historic visit to the country by Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Mr Annan promised that the UN would work "hand in hand" with Afghanistan and its interim government to rebuild the country.

I know not everybody will be entirely happy with the list but it is a good list and let's support them and work with them

Kofi Annan
UN secretary general

Speaking after talks in Kabul with the interim leader, Hamid Karzai, Mr Annan said a "good start" had been made but there was still a lot to be done.

The UN secretary general is the latest international leader to visit Afghanistan as it reclaims its place in the world after years of war and isolation.

The 21-member commission announced on Friday has the task of organising a council of tribal elders, or Loya Jirga, which will in turn appoint a two-year transitional government.

"This is a real impartial commission," said Mr Karzai, who read out the names on the UN list at a news conference with Mr Annan.

Mr Annan added that the commission had been chosen with difficulty from out of 300 names.

Hamid Karzai
Mr Karzai has just returned from raising funds in Tokyo and China
"I know not everybody will be entirely happy with the list but it is a good list and let's support them and work with them," he said.

The UN secretary general also appealed to Afghanistan's neighbours to allow it to build its own future.

"They should not interfere in Afghanistan, they should not repeat the errors of the past," he said.

Mr Annan left the city after a drive through the districts worst hit by factional fighting in the early 1990s.

His visit coincided with US General Tommy Franks' first trip to the Afghan capital - who held talks with Defence Minister Mohammed Fahim to discuss the "last elements" of terrrorism in Agfhanistan, Mr Fahim said.

New Afghanistan

Earlier, Mr Annan visited a Kabul school for girls and met some of the teams engaged in the country's effort to clear land mines.

Zarghuna High School, which is now teaching about 2,500 girls, was an Islamic school for boys under the Taleban.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan at girls' school
Annan: "Look at how happy they are to be back at school"

It once had graffiti scrawled on its walls saying women who went to school or work were prostitutes.

As the UN secretary general passed through the classrooms, teenage girls who were deprived of the right to education for five years giggled and waved .

"Look at how happy they are to be back at school," Mr Annan remarked.

When the UN leader flew in from Pakistan, he was greeted at the airport by mine clearance experts who had brought their gear and sniffer dogs for him to inspect.

Clearing mines in Afghanistan is a top UN priority in Afghanistan where they kill or maim hundreds of people each year.

Security concerns

Mr Annan, the first UN secretary general to visit the country in more than 40 years, was also inspecting the work of the UN-mandated peacekeepers, the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF).

Mother and child in refugee camp in western Afghanistan
The refugee crisis is just one of the huge tasks facing Mr Karzai

With reports of new fighting between United States forces and al-Qaeda militants loyal to the ousted Taleban regime this week, security is still a major concern.

Mr Karzai needs to restore stability to obtain the funds pledged, which come to nearly $5bn.

Most of the money pledged will come from Japan, the US, the European Union and Saudi Arabia.

The US for its part has authorised the release of $217m in assets belonging to Afghanistan's central bank, which were frozen in 1999, while the country was ruled by the Taleban.

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge
"Another step in Afghanistan's return to the world community"
The BBC's Mike Donkin in Kabul
"The secretary general praised the Afghan interim government"
See also:

25 Jan 02 | South Asia
In pictures: Annan in Kabul
24 Jan 02 | South Asia
US troops battle al-Qaeda militants
24 Jan 02 | Americas
'American Taleban' appears in court
23 Jan 02 | Americas
US halts transfers to Cuba camp
10 Feb 02 | South Asia
UN calls for bigger Afghan force
14 Jan 02 | Media reports
Afghan forces face uphill struggle
17 Dec 01 | South Asia
Analysis: The war ahead
25 Jan 02 | South Asia
Q&A: What is a loya jirga?
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