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Former King Broadcasts 'Dear Compatriot' Message To Afghanistan

The former King of Afghanistan Mohammed Zahir Shah has called for unity among all Afghan peoples in a message to be broadcast in his country at the start of Ramadan. The message is the first by the ex-king to the Afghan people since the Northern Alliance drove out the Taleban and took the city.

Former King Mohammed Zahir Shah had hoped the Northern Alliance wouldn't enter the Afghan capital until a council of all ethnic groups in the country was convened to decide a future government to replace the Taleban regime. But, following the successful capture of Kabul by the Northern Alliance this week, the former king's prime concern now is the establishment of law and order so that a political process can be implemented.

In a "Dear Compatriot" message to be broadcast in Afghanistan to coincide with the start of the holy month of Ramadan and made public in Rome Wednesday, Zahir Shah explained his proposal to resolve the Afghan conflict. The former king, who has been living in exile since 1973, said a final solution "could only be achieved by respecting the free will of the Afghan people, as embodied in the formation of the Supreme Council for the National Unity of Afghanistan".

The ex-king has been holding consultations with U.N. officials, representatives of U.S. and other governments and members of the Northern Alliance at his villa in Rome since the September 11 attacks in the United States. He is seen by the international community as a unifying force for Afghanistan.

In his message, Zahir Shah also says that the "pain and suffering of the people in Afghanistan still persists." He expressed the hope that the U.S. military campaign will end soon so that the Afghan people can "once again claim its position among the community of nations with dignity and pride".

To achieve this, the former king urges the protection of life and respect for human life. "My dear compatriots," he said, "today more than ever we are in need of solidarity, unity and cooperation for the establishment of law and order." He said the Afghans "urgently require respect for one another's individual rights. I urge you to safeguard life, property, and also to be vigilant in preventing foreign designs from inflicting harm on our people".

The 87-year-old former king made no reference to his role in a future Afghanistan. Although his advisers have frequently said he plans to return to his country of origin as a symbol for national unity, no date has yet been set.