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Afghan Exile Urges Taleban Defections for New - 2001-10-24


A prominent exiled Afghan leader has urged Taleban members to support a new, broad-based government in Afghanistan.

Pir Sayed Ahmad Gailani said moderate Taleban dissidents should switch sides and rally behind former Afghan King Mohammed Zahir Shah. Mr. Gailani made his remarks to hundreds of Islamic clerics, tribal chiefs and Afghan exiles attending a two-day conference in the Pakistani city Peshawar.

Mr. Gailani also called for a swift end to the U-S -led military operations in Afghanistan so that efforts to rebuild the stricken country could begin as soon as possible. He proposed that the ex-monarch lead a caretaker government that would draft an Islamic constitution for Afghanistan until a traditional assembly (Loya Jirga) could meet to choose new leaders.

The exiled religious leader also proposed that the United Nations send a peacekeeper force made up of troops from Muslim nations to Afghanistan until law and order can be restored.

Mr. Gailani said moderate elements within the Taleban could play an important role in helping to rebuild Afghanistan. The United States and Pakistan have not ruled out a role for moderate Taleban members in a future Afghan government -- but Russia, India and Iran say there should be no Taleban participation.

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