Women to join Afghanistan power-sharing talks

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The Independent Online

Afghanistan's exiled former monarch is sending two women to power–sharing talks in Germany, his grandson said today.

Mostapha Zaher, whose grandfather King Mohammad Zaher Shah was ousted from Kabul in a 1973 palace coup, said the former monarch and his entourage are optimistic about the talks, which Zaher said would likely last a few days.

The grandson, who said he would depart for Germany on Saturday from Rome, where the former king has been living in exile, is part of the delegation.

He said the choice of two women delegates was aimed at promoting concerns of women, who, under the just–ousted Taliban regime, were forbidden to hold jobs, walk in streets unaccompanied by men or attend school.

"We are absolutely concerned about their plight," said Zaher, who left Afghanistan as a young boy and was educated in the West. "We want to integrate the women of Afghanistan into modern life."

The two women are Rona Yusuf Mansuri, who lives in Germany, and the US–based Sima Wali, both prominent in Afghan women's issues.

The top UN envoy to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, has said he hoped the meetings would get under way Monday and include fewer than 30 participants from four different Afghan groupings.

The talks are aimed at forming a broad–based multiethnic government to replace the Taliban regime.

Mostapha Zaher said the ex–king's representatives would include representatives of Uzbek, Tajik and Hazara peoples – the ethnic mix dominating the northern alliance. The ex–king himself is Pashtun, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. The Taliban are largely Pashtun.

Among the eight delegates is Hamid Karzai, an exiled Pashtun leader who was rescued by US forces in Afghanistan as he tried to convince members of his tribe to abandon the Taliban.

"If he can come, he'll be coming straight from Kandahar," the southern city which has been a spiritual base for the Taliban, said Mr Zaher.