In the Afghan capital of Kabul, Northern Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah is hailing the historic agreement signed Wednesday in Germany as the first significant step toward peace in Afghanistan. But several issues still remain unresolved as the country prepares for a new interim government.
The four Afghan factions representing the country's main ethnic groups agreed Wednesday to create an interim government for the next six months. In the new government, Mr. Abdullah and several other members of the Northern Alliance, also known as the United Front, will retain control of the powerful foreign, defense and interior ministries.
Alliance members are also expected to hold 14 additional positions in the 30 member interim cabinet, which is meant to be the first step in a broad-based government representing Afghanistan's main Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara ethnic groups.
Under the terms of the pact, Hamid Karzai, an anti-Taleban commander from the country's dominant Pashtuns, will take over from the Northern Alliance on December 22. What is not yet clear is the future role of the last internationally recognized president of Afghanistan, Burhanuddin Rabbani. After Northern Alliance forces swept into Kabul last month, Mr. Rabbani returned to the capital and has since been occupying the presidential palace. He has been a vocal critic of the talks in Germany, and had refused to attend, saying such discussions should be held in Afghanistan.
For Foreign Minister Abdullah, Mr. Rabbani's remarks should not be taken as an indication that he is reluctant to step aside. He says Mr. Rabbani is hesitating because he has not yet decided what he would like to do in the new government.
"So far President Rabbani has not made it clear what role he would like to play," Mr. Abdullah went on to say. "Of course as the former president and the leader of the United Front, he will have influence in the events to come. He will have some sort of presence, but about his specific role, he has not decided yet."
Wednesday's accord also calls on the United Nations to authorize an international peacekeeping force to be deployed in Kabul and elsewhere. The Northern Alliance has been resisting the plan, insisting its forces, which now control Kabul and nearly three quarters of the country, can keep security without any international assistance.
But Mr. Abdullah says the Northern Alliance remains flexible on the issue. He says talks are still on going with the United Nations to decide if peacekeepers are needed, and if so what type of troops would be acceptable to all sides.