ROME – Afghanistan's exiled king urged Afghans on Wednesday to unite and freely choose their own destiny now that the Taliban rulers have fled Kabul.
In a statement to be broadcast on radio inside Afghanistan, Mohammed Zaher Shah, 87, also urged that the U.S.-led bombing of Afghanistan end soon.
In the statement, which was to be read over the airwaves by one of the monarch's advisers, the king said the developments of the past few days have shown the need for "solidarity, unity and cooperation for the establishment of law and order."
"I urge you to safeguard life, property, and also be vigilant in preventing foreign designs from inflicting more harm on our people," said the statement, a copy of which was released late Wednesday.
The statement made no mention of the king's own role in a post-Taliban Afghanistan. He has been viewed as a possible unifying figure in efforts to come up with a formula to give a stable government to Afghanistan, a country of a myriad of ethnic and linguistic groups.
The monarch said his proposal to convene an emergency meeting of tribal leaders was the only way to achieve a solution to the Afghan conflict that respects the free will of the Afghan people.
"With God's help and the cooperation of our citizens, this political process will be completed," the statement said.
His aides said he intends to return to his nation soon as a symbol of national unity. He has lived in Rome since being ousted in a 1973 palace coup.
One of his advisers, Abdul Sattar Sirat, said Zaher Shah intends to go to his country "when the people of Afghanistan decide." The ex-king "hopes to be in Afghanistan for the safety and security of his people," Sirat said in an interview. "Not today, not tomorrow, but soon."
Zaher Shah "has the privilege of being a father figure to the Afghan nation," Sirat said. "He is a symbol of national unity. He will go to Afghanistan in this capacity. He will have an important role in uniting the Afghan nation."
Earlier, another aide, Yusuf Nuristani, told The Associated Press that "the king's role has yet to be defined" in forming a new government.
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, the ex-king has been consulting at his villa in a Rome suburb with diplomats from the United Nations, the United States, Western Europe and representatives of the Northern Alliance, whose fighters rolled into Kabul early Tuesday after the Taliban rulers fled the capital
On Tuesday, a top U.S. diplomat, James F. Dobbins, visited Zaher Shah to discuss a new government for the country.
Aides to the king have accused the northern alliance of breaking a promise by entering the capital and urged the group not to impose its rule on Afghanistan.
At the United Nations, the U.N. envoy to Afghanistan called Tuesday for Afghan groups to meet with the goal of convening a diverse provisional council and suggested it should be chaired by a "symbol of national unity," an apparent reference to the exiled king.
Interviewed in London by Italian state radio, the brother of slain northern alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massood said that any national unity government must include all groups but stressed that there was no place for so-called "moderate Taliban."
There are no moderate Taliban, said Ahmed Wali Massood, adding that a national unity government must be assembled before any multinational force can go in.
Sirat said the king's aides have asked the northern alliance to "meet anywhere where it is possible for that supreme council" to be held. He was referring to the ex-king's efforts, for weeks now, to convene a traditional assembly of tribal rulers to help determine the next government in Kabul.