Old guard out in post-Taliban agreement

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The Independent Online

The former President of Afghanistan, Burnahiddin Rabbani, appeared to be the principal loser last night as negotiators in Bonn tried to finalise details of an interim administration for the country.

Mr Rabbani, who rushed back to Kabul and based himself at the royal palace immediately after the Northern Alliance took control of the Afghan capital, had emerged as the principal obstacle to an accord in Germany.

The word from Bonn late yesterday was that Mr Rabbani would not be given any leadership position in an interim administration. The United Nations would cease to recognise the pre-Taliban Afghan state, effectively abolishing the state whose presidency he claims.

Yesterday, the foreign minister of the Northern Alliance, Abdullah Abdullah, expressed confidence that there would be an accord. The Northern Alliance was ready to transfer power to a UN-backed transitional council not headed by Mr Rabbani, and the presence of outside peace-keepers should be governed by a UN mandate and have a time limit.

Mr Abdullah's statements and leaks have come from the hilltop fortress-hotel where four Afghan delegations have been closeted with UN negotiators since last Tuesday. The "young Turks", who include Mr Abdullah and the chief negotiator at Bonn, Younis Qanooni, appear to have gained the upper hand over the "old guard" of Mr Rabbani and his supporters.

The Northern Alliance is negotiating transitional arrangements for post-Taliban Afghanistan with an equally large delegation of supporters of the former King, Zahir Shah. Two smaller delegations represent the mainly Pashtun exiles in the Peshawar region of Pakistan and another group of exiles based in Cyprus.