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Afghan Exile Urges Taleban To Support A New Government - 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 today (Wednesday) to hundreds of Islamic clerics, tribal chiefs and Afghan exiles attending a two-day conference in the Pakistani city of 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 can 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.

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

Meanwhile, Turkey says it will host a meeting of Afghan groups opposed to the Taleban. Turkish leaders approved a request made Tuesday by representatives of the former king and Afghanistan's main opposition group, the Northern Alliance.

Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Huseyin Dirioz says his country welcomes the idea of such a meeting and believes that it would be beneficial. The timing for any such meeting is not clear yet.

Turkey -- a predominately Muslim state with a secular government -- also indicated its willingness to send peacekeepers to Afghanistan once hostilities come to an end.

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