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UN: Four Afghan Groups Close to Reaching Power-Sharing Deal

The United Nations says four Afghan groups meeting in Germany are close to reaching a power-sharing agreement on a post-Taleban government for Afghanistan, but the U.N. officials make clear there is no agreement yet. The delay is due to haggling over how many positions should be filled and who will occupy them.

U.N. spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told reporters Thursday that the four groups, including the militarily dominant Northern Alliance, have agreed on the need for an interim administration and an interim legislative council. Mr. Fawzi says the delegations are making headway on the thorny details of how they should share power. He says they are fine-tuning (making slight changes in) lists of who will be part of the council and the administration. But, in his words, "they aren't there yet."

"There is an agreement in each group on the need for an interim administration to take over power in Kabul. There is almost agreement on the question of the size of each group. Almost. But we're not quite there yet. There is agreement on security, but how to achieve that security is still being discussed," he said.

The three groups that represent Afghan exiles want an international military presence in Afghanistan to ensure the security of potential opponents of the Northern Alliance and foreign aid personnel once assistance starts rolling into Afghanistan.

The Northern Alliance has opposed such a force, saying there is already peace and security in Afghanistan following the fall of the Taleban. But Younus Qanooni, the head of the Northern Alliance delegation, told reporters through an interpreter that his group could accept a multinational force as part of a comprehensive peace package.

"Once a transitional mechanism for Afghanistan is established, and if that requires or necessitates the presence of an international peacekeeping force, we will go with that. We will not oppose that," he said.

But the transitional mechanism mentioned by Mr. Qanooni would not begin for another three to six months, after a grand assembly of tribal chiefs appoints a transitional council and administration to succeed the interim council and administration the U.N. hopes will emerge from this conference.

U.N. spokesman Fawzi says the meeting may not be able to reach an agreement on the multinational force. But he says he thinks the delegates can still agree on the details of an interim government within the next two days. And that, he says, would make the meeting near Bonn a success.

"We try to achieve what we can when we can with whom we can. And if we can achieve a local administration in Kabul within the next 24 to 48 hours, then that will have been a success. The talks may then adjourn and resume elsewhere to work on the outstanding issues," he said.

Mr. Qanooni, of the Northern Alliance, also says he thinks a deal on an interim government can be struck by Saturday.