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Afghan Government Talks Open Monday in Berlin - 2001-11-20

The chief United Nations representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, has confirmed that talks aimed at establishing an interim government in Afghanistan will start on Monday.

After meeting with the UN Security Council in a closed session Tuesday, Mr. Brahimi told reporters said the meeting will be held in Berlin, Germany; participants will gather over the weekend, and formal talks will start on Monday. The talks, which will include representatives of all major groups in Afghanistan, except the Taleban, will focus on how to set up an interim administration to run the country.

Mr. Brahimi, who will help coordinate the talks, expressed optimism about the outcome. "We are rather encouraged by what we have heard from the various parties, and we hope this will be the beginning we have been looking for to end the conflict in Afghanistan, and start building some new institutions for the country," he said. "Of course, the Afghans themselves must do that with support from the United Nations."

The talks in Germany are expected to last at least a couple of weeks.

Mr. Brahimi was asked about a request from Taleban commanders in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz that they be allowed to surrender to the United Nations. Mr. Brahimi said that is not an option. "It is evident that the United Nations cannot [accept a surrender]. We have no means. We are not present on the ground, and simply cannot, unfortunately, accede to this request," he said.

Mr. Brahimi indicated the Taleban in Kunduz should surrender to the Northern Alliance, saying that the United Nations has urged the Northern Alliance to respect its obligations under international humanitarian law and to treat the situation "with as much humanity as possible."