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Afghan Groups Meet in Pakistan to Discuss New Government - 2001-10-25

Hundreds of Afghan exiles and tribal leaders have wrapped up a two day meeting aimed at establishing a broad based government in Afghanistan. The meeting was organized by supporters of the former king, Mohammed Zahir Shah.

Representatives of the former king were among a number of groups that stayed away from the gathering. Speakers during the two day conference repeatedly condemned Afghanistan's ruling Taleban and September's terrorist attacks on the United States.

But they also voiced vehement calls for a quick end to the U.S. led bombing of Afghanistan, saying it is time for a political solution to the crisis. They fear the bombing campaign could lead to quick gains by the forces of the Northern Alliance that are battling the Taleban.

Wakil Akbarzai is one of the organizers of the conference. "There should be no hurry no rush," he says. "We should not give room for another military take over, which will continue the uncertainty in Afghanistan."

But critics of the gathering say little of Afghanistan is actually represented here. Many also see it as a thinly veiled attempt by Pakistan and the West to push their vision of a future Afghanistan. Neither the king nor the Northern Alliance had any official representatives here. Also staying away were leaders that remain aligned with the Taleban.

But the men at the Peshawar meeting are confident they can bring people together, and they say the exiled former king, Mohammed Zahir Shah will play a big role.

Mr. Akbarzai says, "the plan is that we are happy to have King Zahir Shah as the head of the state, allowing and creating an environment for a transitional government to have a broad representation for all Afghans."

The delegates agreed to call for a Loya Jirga, or grand gathering, of Afghani leaders to help set up that transitional government. Tribal elder Qazi Mohammed Amin Waqad read the declaration to the crowd.

He says the Loya Jirga is the best way to restore peace. The declaration also calls for the cooperation of the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Countries.

Several hundred demonstrators, many of them Afghan refugees enrolled in religious schools, tried to march on the conference hall.

They accuse the participants of being agents of America and the rest of the Western world. They were stopped by Pakistani police and soon dispersed peacefully after a few tense moments.

But many of the demonstrators say they may not stay peaceful for long they say they are willing to go to Afghanistan to help fight on the side of the Taleban.