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U-S Lawmakers Meet Afghan Opposition Leaders - 2001-09-29


U-S lawmakers have promised Congress will help rebuild war-torn Afghanistan if opposition groups are able to overthrow the country's ruling Taleban movement.

Representative Dana Rohrabacher and other lawmakers met Saturday at a hotel in Rome, Italy, with Afghan opposition leaders. The lawmakers are to meet Sunday with Afghanistan's former King, Zahir Shah, who was chosen earlier this week to lead an alliance of anti-Taleban groups.

The king has been hosting a series of Afghan commanders at his villa this week in an effort to rally them together against the Taleban. The Northern Alliance, Afghanistan's main military opposition group, was among those invited.

The 86-year-old former King has lived in Rome since his ouster from Afghanistan in a 1973 coup. He says he wants to play a role in a transition from Taleban rule, but denies he wants to re-establish the monarchy.

U-S officials and intelligence experts say the former King's prestige could help facilitate the advent of a new regime in Afghanistan.

On Saturday, Taleban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar dismissed the king as a spent force whose time has come and passed. The Mullah told conservative Tehran newspaper Entekhab the former King is too old and to ill to play a public role in Afghanistan.

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