November 16, 2001
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Zahir Shah has role in Afghanistan's future: UN

Former Afghan monarch Zahir Shah has a vital role to play in the new government in Afghanistan, the UN has said.

Francesc Vendrell, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's deputy special representative, said, "Shah has a vital role to play in Afghanistan's future."

Vendrell mentioned a poll conducted by officers of the UN special mission in the northern Pakistani city of Peshawar, which showed overwhelming support for the former king among newly arrived Afghan refugees, SADA reports.

Mentioning Burhanuddin Rabbani, still recognised as the head of state in Afghanistan by the UN, even after the overthrow of his government by the Taleban, Vendrell said, "If he does return, of course he has the right to call himself the president of Afghanistan."

He added, however, "The title he chooses to take is up to him, but it is for the international community to recognise any new government in Afghanistan."

Vendrell also said Pakistan and Iran did not qualify to be part of a multilateral force, under the UN umbrella, to keep an eye on peace in Afghanistan.

He said Pakistan, Iran, Russia and India could not join the military force as they had interests in Afghanistan.

To a question about the possibility of a UN peacekeeping force in the country, he said: "Blue helmets mean a force to maintain peace, it is a force that does not act aggressively, that does not have a robust mandate. There is no agreement yet to verify this and there is no peace agreement, so the issue of a classic blue helmeted force does not arise at the moment."

Instead, he stressed on an 'international security force that would be available to maintain order, help a new provisional or interim council work inside Kabul, and assist the UN carry out its functions in Afghanistan'.

He said the UN was trying to help the Afghan people start some kind of an interim administration that would eventually lead to a provisional government, and finally to elections.

Vendrell clarified the UN was not trying to decide upon a legitimate government for Afghanistan.

"What we are trying to achieve is to help the Afghans set up a transitional body with broad representation."

Vendrell said the UN secretary general wanted both a political and a humanitarian affairs' office in Kabul.

The UN envoy is to visit Kabul where he intends to talk to various leaders of the Northern Alliance to discuss the situation in the country and also ask them 'to listen to our views, which have the support of the international community'.

"I will also invite the United Front (Northern Alliance) to participate at a meeting of various Afghan groups that Lakhdar Brahimi (UN special representative to Afghanistan) wants to hold at an appropriate place at the earliest opportunity."

He clarified that the UN humanitarian and political presence in Kabul had nothing to do with recognising the Northern Alliance.

"The legitimisation of any authority in Afghanistan is in the hands of the Afghan people and for that to occur there needs to be an internationally acceptable process, such as elections or a very carefully convened Loya Jirga (grand council of elders)," he explained.

"I've gone there while the Taleban were there. The UN has had a presence in Kabul before the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US. That in no way has signified the recognition of the Taleban and I don't think that our presence strengthened them."

Indo-Asian News Service

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