Afghan Delegates Draft Interim Gov't Plan

Delegates to U.N. talks on Afghanistan's political future completed a draft plan Sunday outlining terms for the northern alliance to transfer power to an interim government.

But tough bargaining over power-sharing was only beginning. The key issue facing the four Afghan delegations during their sixth day of talks in Germany was the makeup of an interim executive council for Afghanistan. The delegations represent the northern alliance, exiles loyal to the former king and two smaller exile groups.

"The hard part of this doesn't come until you begin negotiating names, and they're still not there," U.S. envoy James F. Dobbins, who is exerting pressure for a deal from the sidelines, said Saturday.

U.N. spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said the United Nations presented the delegations with a draft proposal for an interim administration early Sunday morning.

The plan calls for an interim council with 25 to 28 seats and an independent council of elders that would convene a national tribal council, or loya jirga, at the end of the interim phase. The proposal also has provisions for an international security force, he said.

Plans for a second, larger assembly with legislative functions were dropped Saturday to speed up the talks.

"They are looking at the text. We hope we can clean it up by the end of the day," Fawzi said.

The United Nations intends to finalize a list of names for the interim council in Germany, Fawzi said. U.N. chief envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was prepared to travel immediately to Afghanistan to implement any deal.

It was not yet clear when an international security force would be deployed, but Fawzi cautioned that it would take a little time to assemble.

Who exactly will have seats on the interim council is unclear, but envoys of former King Mohammad Zaher Shah are seeking a strong symbolic role for the exiled monarch.

Northern alliance leader Burhanuddin Rabbani's role also was unclear, although members of the ex-king's delegation said he would have none. Rabbani is currently recognized by the United Nations as head of state.

"He will continue to play a role until the interim administration is in place," Fawzi said. "We need him to conclude this agreement."

Talks in Germany moved into a decisive phase Saturday after the northern alliance in Kabul said it would let its delegates work on creating the council and allow an international security force. Rabbani had stalled the talks by announcing earlier in Kabul that an interim administration must be named there, not in Germany — creating doubts about whether any agreement in Bonn could be implemented on the ground.

But northern alliance foreign minister Dr. Abdullah announced a reversal in the northern alliance position Saturday in Kabul. The move followed a night of intense diplomacy, with Brahimi calling Kabul to press northern alliance leaders to drop opposition to any council named here. U.S., German, Iranian and British diplomats also exerted pressure directly on Rabbani.

All four factions at the talks near the former German capital of Bonn have agreed that the interim authority would govern Afghanistan until a national council, or loya jirga, would convene, possibly in March or April.

At that time, a transitional authority would be chosen to govern for up to two years, paving the way for a democratic constitution and eventual elections.