Tribal Monarchist Likely to Head Interim Gov’t in Kabul

Published December 4th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Tribal Monarchist Likely to Head Interim Gov’t in Kabul 

The Rome-based entourage of former Afghan king Mohammed Zahir Shah has changed its nomination for a head of an Afghan interim government, opting for royalist Pashtun tribal leader Hamid Karzai, a delegate in the talks said Tuesday, according to AFP. 

Royal delegate Mohammad Kazem Fazeli told the agency that the camp's initial candidate -- ethnic Uzbek Abdul Sattar Sirat -- has been replaced by Karzai, who is from Afghanistan's ethnic Pashtun majority. 

"Mr Karzai is the candidate for the Rome process," he told AFP. "Mr Sirat also wanted to head the interim government, but because of some reservations, it was decided that Mr Karzai was more suitable." 

Sources close to the ex-king had earlier said that the candidacy of Sirat, a 63-year-old ex-minister, was apparently rejected by the United Nations as well as the powerful Northern Alliance chief negotiator Yunus Qanooni. 

They said it would shift the ethnic balance in the future administration in favor of the Northern Alliance, a coalition of ethnic Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek minorities, and risk isolating Afghanistan's Pashtun community. 

Born in the Pashtun-populated southern Afghanistan, Karzai, 44, is currently fighting Taliban troops around their last remaining stronghold of Kandahar. 

Meanwhile, the rival groups struggled to name an interim administration after a breakthrough deal late Monday night on how a post-Taliban government should work, reported Reuters. 

UN hosts and diplomats observing the protracted talks hoped the Afghans would agree overnight on an interim leadership to take over in Kabul later this month, opening the door to multinational peacekeepers and billions of dollars in aid.  

With agreement so close after eight days, officials and diplomats warned the closed-door talks could still fall short of a full deal. Northern Alliance leader Burhanuddin Rabbani in Kabul has repeatedly delayed progress with new objections.  

"If all goes well we hope to have a signing ceremony tomorrow, and I stress, if all goes well," UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told a news briefing Tuesday.  

In the first practical signal of that hope, the German hosts began to plan for a formal signing ceremony on Wednesday in the luxury Petersberg hilltop hotel where the talks have been held, said Reuters – 

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