- ROME (AFP) - Afghan
leaders meeting in Rome Saturday delivered a clear message to the United
States not to strike at targets in Afghanistan, calling instead for US
military hardware to oust the terrorists themselves.
- "Give us the tools and we shall finish the
said Mostapha Zahir, special assistant to 86-year-old former Afghan king
Mohammed Zahir Shah whom opposition forces and the United Nations alike
see as the catalyst for peace in the Central Asian country.
- Military commanders from the Northern Alliance, fighting
a civil war against the ruling Taliban militia, and non-aligned commanders
meeting in Rome, the ex-monarch's adopted home, confirmed to AFP that they
did not want US intervention.
- Zahir, the ex-monarch's grandson, also called on
to bring pressure to bear on Pakistan, a key ally in US President George
W. Bush's "crusade" against terrorism in the wake of the
11 attacks in the United States.
- He said Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)
agency had become "a government within a government" and was
assisting its Taliban allies in oppressing the Afghan people.
- "The danger to Pakistan may be even greater than
to Afghanistan through the process of Talibanisation of the armed
Zahir told AFP.
- Yunis Qanuni, a key Northern Alliance figure, said the
biggest obstacle to peace in Afghanistan was its powerful neighbour.
- "They (Pakistan) have brought the terrorists, and
now they just want to change their image so that they can continue to wield
influence in Afghanistan.
- He said the Taliban were merely "tools for the
strategy of Pakistan."
- Qanuni said the United States "can be very helpful
in breaking Pakistan's stranglehold on Afghanistan, and rid Afghanistan
of terrorism," but not through direct military action.
- He said US help was "important", but Washington
should be aware that "the Afghan people can push the terrorists out
of Afghanistan themselves."
- Zahir told AFP shortly before entering round-table talks
with Qanuni and other opposition commanders and technocrats, that
should be done "to avoid an external intervention in
- "They (the United States) should be aiding in giving
the proper tools to the Afghans themselves to combat terrorism, which
at the moment in some areas of Afghanistan."
- Zahir said he was concerned about the civilian casualties
which would likely result from a US military assault.
- "Whatever the commanders are saying, I do support.
And they are saying it must be an Afghan initiative and they're right about
- Another group of Afghan commanders met the king early
- "We are all commanders from different parts of
We support the holding of a Loya Jirga (a meeting of traditional chiefs)
and we all support the king," one commander, Abdul Khaliq, told
- "We have just started to talk to different groups.
All the groups want to talk to each other and to bring peace to
and kick out the Taliban," Khaliq added, indicating he saw no role
for a reconstituted Taliban in a new administration.
- Khaliq is exiled in the United States and said he longs
to go back to a free Afghanistan.
- Opposition groups agreed at a meeting here late Friday
to create a supreme council and a military council under the authority
of the ex-king to prepare an attempt to take power from the Taliban, whom
Washington accuses of sheltering Osama bin Laden, chief suspect in the
attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Department of Defense
- The widely respected former monarch has already proposed
that a Loya Jirga should be held in the country as soon as it was feasible
to do so, in a bid to establish a new interim administration.
- Zahir said he was confident peace could yet come to
without recourse to further bloodshed.
- "We are trying to build a consensus," he said,
and 10 days of discussions around the king had so far proved fruitful,
despite the absence of representatives of the fundamentalist Taliban
which overthrew president Burhanuddin Rabbani in 1996.
- "As long as he is alive he will go through this
peace process. He is the cement. The father of his people."
- The Taliban were not the united front they appeared to
be to the outside world, insisted Zahir.
- "They are waiting for a signal, when the talks are
- From Name on file
- It seems the opposition to the Taliban has wised up and
realized that the US will install its own puppet government if it invades
and ousts the Taliban. The opposition wants Afghanistan to remain in
control and not to become another US colonial satellite, New World Order
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