Delegates haggle over draft UN agreement

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The Independent Online

The four delegations to the Bonn talks on Afghanistan were haggling over the names of the country's future transitional rulers today as they picked through a final document submitted by the United Nations as the basis for an agreement.

The seven-page document set out structures and guarantees for an interim Afghan administration that would hold power for six months, until a more lasting government structure could be put in place. One name put foward as the potential head of the administration was that of Abdul Sattar Sirat, a former justice minister and aide to ex-king Zahir Shah, who was backed by the Northern Alliance and the royalist Rome group.

While the existence of a document represented the most concrete progress towards accord observed for several days, Ahmad Fawzi, a UN spokesman, stressed that much work remained to be done. "We're not there yet," he insisted, taking it for granted that the talks would stretch into a seventh day and perhaps beyond.

They opened on a wave of euphoria and optimism on Tuesday last week, with all sides gratified that everyone invited had turned up. As the days of talking have ground on, however, the size of the task has become apparent. Yesterday's draft accord, which was leaked within hours of being handed to Afghan delegates, showed how far the UN has had to rethink.

The structures under discussion are quite different from the two-part executive and council proposed (and apparently accepted) at the start of talks last week, and no list of names for any of the leadership bodies has come near to being approved. "When it comes down to names, it gets very difficult," said Mr Fawzi, who was flagging. But he insisted: "It is important that we discuss and finalise a list of names in Bonn."

Under the latest proposals, there would be just one interim body to govern Afghanistan, an executive of between 25 and 30 people that would take over "as soon as possible". Its mandate would last six months, until an emergency tribal assembly, or loya jirga, could be held.

This would ratify a new executive and a larger "supreme national council" that would be given two years to draft a constitution. A new loya jirga would then ratify the constitution and arrange for elections leading to a permanent government for Afghanistan.

The draft document makes clear that the interim executive is the only body likely to be chosen at Bonn, but it would satisfy the requirement, set by the UN at the start, that the delegations should not leave Germany until they had agreed the composition of an administration capable of making decisions. What the UN was concerned to avoid was a situation where structures had been agreed in principle, but with no names attached.In the draft document are proposals for a 21-member "independent commission on convening the emergency loya jirga" and for a supreme court of Afghanistan. No names will be decided as yet for these bodies, but the principle would be laid down that no member of one body could serve in another.

Much vaguer are draft proposals relating to the position of the former king and the installation of a multinational peace-keeping force. The king, the UN suggests, could take a symbolic role in "presiding over the opening of the emergency loya jirga".