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Monday, 26 November, 2001, 09:00 GMT
UK hopes high for Afghan talks
Talks in Bonn
The talks mark a step to a 'broad-based' government
The UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is hopeful talks in Germany will be the first step towards a new broad-based government for Afghanistan.


The Taleban are almost literally making their last stand

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
Afghan leaders were due to meet in Bonn on Tuesday to discuss the establishment of an interim government in the war-torn country.

Mr Straw told BBC Radio 4's Today programme no British troops were currently alongside US forces against Taleban fighters in their stronghold of Kandahar.

But he said Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon was due to answer questions in the Commons on Monday and would give an update if the situation changed.

"It looks as though they have very little support from the local population, even in their heartland," he said.

Preliminary talks

Meanwhile the leading players would be represented in Tuesday's preliminary talks on the future government of Afghanistan.

Foreign Secretary: Jack Straw
Straw: No British troops in Kandahar
"It will lead to the beginnings of a transitional authority and, over the longer period, the beginnings of a proper and well-functioning state, from a circumstance where there was no state at all," he told the programme.

He welcomed the fact that of the 11 Northern Alliance delegates, one was a woman and at least one a member of the Pashtun ethnic group, from which the Taleban draws most of its support.

"That does give an indication that everybody who is going to that meeting is concerned to ensure that the interim authority and then government itself is broad-based," he said.

Tribal fighting

As for tribal fighting, he said experience elsewhere had shown that warlords could become representatives of their population.

"The only way to do it is by this political process linked into the military process," he said.

As for a UN military presence on the ground, he said a decision would not be made on a role for a large number of forces from abroad in Afghanistan, be they UN peacekeepers or troops from Muslim countries, until after this week's talks in Bonn.

All main countries have said they were ready to provide forces.

But he said the UN had indicated that there could be a role for a "coalition of the willing" under its auspices.

"All the people I have spoken to from Afghanistan ... have indicated that in certain circumstances they would welcome the presence of some such troops," he said.

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UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
"The Taleban are almost literally making their last stand"

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See also:

25 Nov 01 | UK Politics
UK troops still 'ready' for Afghanistan
23 Nov 01 | South Asia
UN call for Afghan security force
22 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Straw in key troop talks
21 Nov 01 | South Asia
Nations unite to rebuild Afghanistan
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
Q&A: What will Afghan talks produce?
21 Nov 01 | Americas
US wary of peacekeeping
25 Sep 01 | Middle East
UK fosters Iran relations
24 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Analysis: Straw's visit divides Iran
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