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Afghan Factions Sign Agreement on Interim Government - 2001-12-05

Four rival Afghan factions have signed an historic power-sharing agreement after nine days of talks in Germany. The deal calls for power in Afghanistan to be transferred to a new interim administration on December 22. The accord is expected to pave the way for billions of dollars in reconstruction aid to flow into Afghanistan in the months and years ahead.

The exhausted delegates had worked through Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning and had been summoned to put the final touches on the deal just after dawn. There was only one way to react when U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi put his signature on the document after the four heads of delegation had signed it too. The deal sets up a 30 member interim administration to govern Afghanistan for the next six months.

The body will be chaired by Hamid Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun tribal chief and field commander who is close to Afghanistan's ousted king and is currently battling the Taleban for control of the militia's last stronghold, Kandahar.

But the party that emerges with most of the key posts, like defense, interior, and foreign affairs in the new cabinet-like structure, is the ethnic Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance, which captured Kabul and much of the rest of the country with the help of massive U.S. air strikes against the Taleban.

Toward the end of the interim administration, a grand assembly of tribal chiefs will be convened to lay the groundwork for a transitional administration that will rule Afghanistan for up to two years and pave the way for elections.

Mr. Brahimi says the agreement signed near Bonn was the best that could be achieved at a time when Afghanistan is still at war. "This agreement may not be perfect, because it was devised rapidly to address an emergency. No one here claims that the Afghan participants gathered in Bonn speak for the entire Afghan population or that an interim plan of this nature can provide a solution for all of the country's many grave problems. Ultimately, however, this agreement will be judged by what it achieves, rather than by the circumstances in which it was reached," he said.

Relief that the agreement was reached was widespread among the delegates, the U.N., and the international diplomats that have promised massive doses of reconstruction aid to the war-weary and devastated country. The chief negotiator for the Northern Alliance, Younus Qanooni, says the accord proves that, after 22 years of making war, the Afghans have shown they can also make peace.

Mr. Brahimi says the difficulties in reaching the agreement pale in comparison to the challenges the Afghans face in rebuilding their country. He promises that they can count on the international community of donors for help, but warns that the good will of such donors could have limits. "The international community's determination is very strong now. But it is bound to fade unless the interim authority and the transitional authority that follows it live up to their commitments and prove to the world that they are up to the task that has been entrusted to them," he said.

As Mr. Brahimi spoke, a meeting of potential donors for Afghanistan was getting underway in Berlin.