Pressure on Alliance not to enter Kabul in force

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There was concerted pressure on the Northern Alliance to keep the majority of its fighters outside Kabul, even though a 2,000–strong policing force was already being moved into the city.

Pakistan this afternoon urged the United States to prevent the Northern Alliance taking over Kabul and said that a de–militarised zone should be established around the city.

A spokesman for the Pakistan Foreign Ministry told a news conference that no single group was capable of running Afghanistan and said that a broad–based government, under the auspices of the United Nations, held the best hope for the future.

The Northern Alliance has been forcibly warned by the US to stay out of Kabul.

At the United Nations, America, Russia and six nations that border Afghanistan pledged "to establish a broad–based Afghan administration on an urgent basis."

The aim is to put together a transitional leadership that is broadly acceptable, possibly including Taliban defectors. However, alliance leaders have rejected bringing in former Taliban members. Holding the capital increases the alliance's claim on a dominant role in a future government.

The northern alliance considers Pakistan a patron of the Taliban even through Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf abandoned them after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

General Musharraf has called for Kabul to be declared a neutral city. During an appearance Monday night on American television, he said the alliance's move on Kabul was "dangerous" because "we are now getting information that there are certain atrocities being perpetrated in Mazar–i–Sharif."

"And that is exactly my apprehension that we have seen a lot of atrocities, a lot of killings between the various ethnic groups in Kabul after the Soviets left, and that's why we are of the opinion that Kabul should be maintained as a demilitarized city," Gen Musharraf said.

UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, who is currently in India, denied there was a power vacuum in Kabul.

"What is important, and this is why I'm in India, is that we discuss not only with the main ethnic groups in Afghanistan but equally with the important regional players like India how they see a way forwards towards a stable and lasting government," he told the BBC.

He added that it was vital to set up a new, shared power structure in order to create peace in Afghanistan.

"The United Kingdom is part of a determined diplomatic offensive to discuss ways forward in Afghanistan.

"It is important that we have a broad–based government and it is important equally that the United Nations plays a role in that."