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December 7, 2001
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UN defers issue of peacekeeping force in Afghanistan

Dharam Shourie at the United Nations

The United Nations Security Council has endorsed the agreement for an interim government in Afghanistan and expressed willingness to help implement it but deferred the contentious issue of a multinational peacekeeping force at least till the next week.

The British-French resolution adopted unanimously by the 15-member Council expressed its willingness to take further action to support the interim institutions established by the accord 'as long as the Afghan parties fulfil their commitments'.

The 30-member interim authority agreed to in the 9-day UN brokered discussions among anti-Taliban Afghan parties in Bonn, Germany, comprises eleven representatives of Pushtoons, eight of Tajiks, five of Hazaras, three of Uzbeks and the remaining three of smaller groups.

After the resolution was adopted, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the Council would be coming back to the issue of multinational force later but "I hope not much later because that is an essential part of the agreement."

Diplomats said discussion on the multinational force to provide security initially in and around Kabul, agreed to by the Afghan parties, would begin next week but sources say the Council is waiting for the United States to firm up its position before any negotiations commence.

American military commanders fear that presence of the force might jeopardize their search for Saudi extremist Osama bin Laden.

The UN would prefer that the force, which will be mandated by the Council but would be not be commanded by the UN, to be in place at least in Kabul by December 22 when the new interim council takes office.

The resolution noted that the provisional arrangements are intended as a first step towards the establishment of a 'broad-based, gender sensitive, multi-ethnic and fullly representative government'

The Council also called on all bilateral and multilateral donors and UN agencies to reaffirm their commitment to assist with the country's rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction process.

Diplomats say the resolution did not mention the multinational force as member wanted to clarify several issues before doing that and there was not enough time for it as the Council was in a hurry to show its support for to the Afghan agreement.

Several issues would need to be decided before the multinational force becomes operational including who would head it, number of troops and operational details.

Britain, Germany, France, Canada and Turkey are expected to initially join the force. There is also talk of some sort of a quasi NATO presence and Jordan too has shown interest.

Bangladesh and Indonesia are said to be keen to join the force but would need financial help.

The UN compensates the troops contributors if it is a UN peacekeeping force. But in a multinational force, which is not the under the control of the UN, each contributor has to spend its own money.

PTI

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