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UN Pushes for International Summit on Afghanistan - 2003-12-11

As delegates gather in Kabul to approve a draft constitution for post-war Afghanistan, the United Nations is pushing for an international summit to address the many problems hindering the country's political development. One of the chief obstacles is lack of security.

When Afghan and international leaders met in Bonn, Germany, in December 2001, they hoped to set in motion a process that would lead to a stable, safe post-war Afghanistan, with a voice for all segments of society.

In those two years, the interim government has overseen the writing of a drafting constitution, which it hopes will be adopted this month.

But U.N. special representative to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, says the Bonn process has still fallen short, with continued factional fighting and an anti-government insurgency. He says this violence and lack of security is hindering vital reconstruction.

Mr. Brahimi also criticizes the transitional government as being perceived by most Afghans as corrupt and overly influenced by commanders of the Northern Alliance - the Afghan forces which helped the United States overthrow the former hard-line Taleban regime in 2001.

U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva says the United Nations believes it is time for another Bonn meeting to address these issues.

"It's a good practice also to take stock of what you are doing, to see what results, what achievements, what errors, what difficulties, and identify key problems," he said. "We think it is of utmost importance that people, who are not in the immediate circle of the state, be allowed to be part these discussions."

U.N. officials say the proposed conference should also boost donor funding for Afghanistan.

The U.N. spokesman also expressed concern about civilian casualties last week during U.S.-led assaults against suspected terrorist targets.

"Unfortunately and worryingly, this type of incident also makes it easier for those who are trying to spoil the peace process to rally support for their cause," said Mr. de Almeida e Silva.

One of the spoilers appears to be Afghan rebel militia leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who said, in a video released this week, that he is confident armed opposition groups will prevail over U.S. forces.

The United States launched an attack on Afghanistan in October 2001, after the Taleban government refused to hand over al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who was wanted for terrorists attacks in New York and Washington. The Taleban fell quickly and U.S. forces remain in the country fighting al-Qaida and Taleban remnants posing a threat to Afghanistan's transitional government and rebuilding efforts.