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November 15, 2001
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US holds talks with Pakistan on future Afghan set-up

Muhammad Najeeb in Islamabad

Pakistan and the United States on Thursday discussed a future political set-up in Afghanistan following the arrival of America's newly named special envoy on the Afghan issue.

James Dobbins, who arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday night, 'is holding consultations with (Pakistani) officials at the foreign ministry', a US embassy spokesman said.

Pakistan has so far opposed a dominant role for the anti-Taleban Northern Alliance, which took over Kabul on Tuesday. It is also not opposed to including moderate elements of the Taleban in a future Afghan set-up.

The US embassy spokesman said the special envoy would also meet President Pervez Musharraf 'but that schedule has not been given as yet by Pakistan'.

"Certainly he is here to facilitate the process (of government formation in Kabul)," the spokesman said, when asked if a Northern Alliance government would be accepted by the US.

Dobbins was in Rome on Tuesday for a meeting with Afghanistan's former king Zahir Shah. The spokesman said the US special envoy would stay for a day or two for consultations. He, however, refused to say whether Dobbins would go to Afghanistan to meet leaders of the Northern Alliance.

A Pakistani official said confirming the meeting, "The Pakistan side was being led by Foreign Secretary Inamul Haq."

The official said talks would centre around 'working towards what everybody is agreed upon, and that is a broad-based government in Afghanistan'.

The official also confirmed that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have discussed a three-point peace plan for Afghanistan that envisages the deployment of international peacekeepers there.

He said deployment of international peacekeepers in areas captured by the anti-Taleban forces, including Kabul, was thoroughly discussed during Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal's two visits to Islamabad last month.

The Pakistan-Saudi plan also calls for a conference of all Afghan factions under UN auspices and with the participation of other countries or neighbours of Afghanistan.

Riyadh and Islamabad have also proposed the formation of a transitional government of national unity that would provide for a 'balanced representation' of Afghan ethnic groups in line with their demographic and political weight, according to the official.

The Northern Alliance is dominated by the minority Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras while the Pushtoon ethnic group constitutes 40 per cent of Afghanistan's 16 million population.

The UN on Tuesday spelt out a five-point political plan for Afghanistan but advised against stationing armed UN troops in the country.

Indo-Asian News Service

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