UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday endorsing efforts to help fill a political vacuum in Afghanistan and provide security for the vast areas of the country captured by anti-Taliban forces.
The resolution makes no explicit reference to a multinational force, but U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said it provides enough authority for coalition troops already in Afghanistan to help maintain law and order in the capital, Kabul, and areas vacated by the fleeing Taliban forces.
Britain and France pledged to contribute troops, but said another resolution would be needed later to authorize the sending of an international force.
The resolution endorses a U.N. initiative to bring Afghanistan's disparate ethnic groups together to form a transitional government and warns all Afghan forces "to refrain from acts of reprisal."
It also urges the 189 U.N. member states to provide "urgent humanitarian assistance to alleviate the suffering" of the Afghan people.
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock said the council wants the top U.N. envoy for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, who outlined the U.N. initiative on Tuesday, to quickly convene a meeting of Afghan leaders on a transitional administration.
State-run Abu Dhabi television reported Wednesday that the United Arab Emirates has agreed to a U.N. request to host a meeting of all Afghan factions, but Brahimi said he had not yet decided on a venue.
Brahimi told the Security Council he hopes the meeting will take place sometime next week, diplomats said.
The resolution expresses "strong support for the efforts of the Afghan people to establish a new and transitional government leading to the formation of a government ... (which) should be broad-based, multi-ethnic and representative of all the Afghan people and committed to peace with Afgahnistan's neighbors."
It is unclear who will attend the meeting, but Greenstock said the various members of the Northern Alliance, which routed the Taliban, will be encouraged to show up, he said.
The British-French resolution also encourages all countries "to support efforts to ensure the safety and security of areas of Afghanistan no longer under Taliban control, and in particular to ensure respect for Kabul as the capital for all the Afghan people."
Anticipating a U.N. resolution, Britain said Wednesday "several thousand" of its soldiers were ready to deploy as a "stabilizing force" in cities taken by the Northern Alliance. Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, and New Zealand also pledged to send troops.
Turkey announced Wednesday it was reopening its embassy in Kabul and its consulate in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif to facilitate contacts with Afghan groups and help form a new government. Turkey has already promised to send special forces and offered peacekeepers.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said diplomats have been active on several fronts about establishing a broad-based government in Afghanistan.
Brahimi is hoping his deputy for political affairs, Francesc Vendrell, and a top U.N. humanitarian expert will be in Kabul by Friday. James Dobbins, the U.S. special envoy for Central Asia, is in Pakistan to work with Afghan leaders there after brief visits to Italy and Turkey, Boucher said.
In addition, a 21-nation advisory group on Afghanistan and the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference will meet at the United Nations on Friday.