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International Community Continues Talks With Former Afghan King - 2001-10-22

Representatives of the international community continue to hold talks with Afghanistan's former King Zahir Shah about the makeup of a possible post-Taleban transitional government. The European Union's foreign policy chief met with the ex-king Sunday, and the U.N. envoy for Afghanistan is to meet with him later Monday. European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Monday he believes the former king can play a role in the formation of a new government, once the ruling Taleban in Afghanistan has been toppled.

After talks with the exiled former king at his villa on the outskirts of Rome, the EU envoy said, "Our hope is that Afghanistan can join the family of nations again. Unfortunately, there's a group of fanatics who run the country."

Mr. Solana assured the former king that the European Union is prepared to help Afghanistan with humanitarian aid.

Before departing Rome for Israel, the EU envoy also met with Italy's defense minister, Antonio Martino, to discuss the situation in the Middle East, which he described as "tense and complicated", especially following the killing of an Israeli Cabinet minister last week.

The United Nations special envoy for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, is also scheduled to meet with the former king. Mr. Brahimi is expected to discuss with the former monarch deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force in Afghanistan, after the U.S.-led military action there has ended.

Mr. Brahimi is not enthusiastic, as he feels foreigners in military uniforms would not be well received by the Afghan population. One possibility that has been suggested is a force comprised primarily of troops from Islamic countries.

Officials say the top U.N. official will also try to get a clearer idea from the former king of how a 120 member council, which would lay the groundwork for forming a transitional government for Afghanistan, is shaping up. Agreement to form the council, made up of representatives from all Afghan ethnic groups, but excluding the Taleban, was reached last month.