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Afghan Opposition Strategy Meeting in Doubt - 2001-10-29

Bickering between Afghan opposition factions has put in doubt a planned strategy meeting in Turkey this week. Organizers had hoped the meeting would build support for a broad-based government that included supporters of the former King, Mohammed Zahir Shah.

Almurad Arghoon, the Ankara representative of the opposition Northern Alliance, told VOA Monday that his group was no longer certain whether a planned meeting with representatives of the deposed Afghan monarch would be taking place in Ankara.

Mr. Arghoon said Northern Alliance officials had instead proposed that representatives of the king meet with them in Northern Afghanistan to discuss details of an interim government that would replace the Taleban faction, which has been ruling Afghanistan since 1996.

Mr. Arghoon declined to comment on why Ankara was no longer the preferred venue for that meeting. But Western diplomatic sources in the Turkish capital say the main reason for the change stemmed from differences between the two groups over who should be the prime minister in the interim government.

Another area of friction is reportedly the ethnic and tribal make up of a proposed Supreme Allied Council whose 120 members were to have been agreed upon during the Ankara meeting. The council, once formed, was to select an interim government to replace the Taleban.

Turkish officials declined to comment on the developments, saying that Turkey's only role was, as one official put it, "to offer its hospitality" to the Afghan opposition groups and "nothing more."

Turkey has declared, however, that it is opposed to any government that would include moderate members of the Taleban, as has been mentioned by some Western leaders. Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem was recently quoted as saying: "There is no such thing as a moderate Taleban [member]."

Turkey is predominantly Muslim and has been officially secular ever since the establishment of the modern Turkish republic by Kemal Ataturk almost 80 years ago. The country, a member of NATO, has pledged its full support to the U.S. led war against global terrorism.