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Italy: Pakistan Wants to Meet Afghan Ex-King Envoy - 2001-10-03


Italy says Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has requested that former Afghan King Mohammad Zahir Shah urgently send an envoy to Islamabad to discuss the future of Afghanistan.

After meeting with General Musharraf in Islamabad today (Wednesday), Italy's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Margherita Boniver) told reporters the Pakistani leader believes the former king has a role to play in Afghanistan if the Taleban regime should fall.

Later, a foreign office spokesman in Islamabad said the General did not invite the envoy, but he would be welcome to visit Pakistan.

Earlier this week, the 86-year old exiled monarch and Afghanistan's opposition Northern Alliance announced an agreement aimed at setting up a transitional government by holding a Grand Council. Called a "Lora Jirga," the Grand Council would convene 120 representatives of Afghanistan's various ethnic groups.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Northern Alliance says as many as 10-thousand men are ready to desert the Taleban and join opposition forces in Afghanistan.

The spokesman also told reporters that representatives of the Alliance have met in recent days with U-S officials to discuss military cooperation. He did not elaborate. He added that the anti-Taleban alliance has received military aid from Russia and Iran in the past and that both countries are ready to provide more.

Tuesday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the Taleban has only two choices -- hand over the terrorists or be ousted from power. But the Taleban repeated its stand that accused terrorist Osama bin Laden will be surrendered only after it sees proof of his involvement in terrorism.

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