KABUL, Afghanistan – Former president Burhanuddin Rabbani returned to his former capital Saturday, declaring himself the legitimate head of state despite promises to support formation of a new, broad-based government.
Rabbani's foreign minister, Abdullah, said the Northern Alliance remained committed to forming a multiethnic government, including the dominant Pashtun group "the sooner the better."
Nevertheless, it appeared that Rabbani's followers intended to enter such negotiations from a position of strength as the legitimate rulers of this country.
Rabbani, who has always maintained the legitimacy of his own leadership, told a news conference that control of government ministries would revert to those who held them before the Taliban toppled his administration in 1996.
At the same news conference, Abdullah said the Northern Alliance would be willing to discuss the possibility of international peacekeepers with the United Nations.
However, he added that the United Nations would have to take into consideration "the situation on the ground." That was a clear sign that Rabbani's followers would not accept any arrangement without consultations with them.
Rabbani's Northern Alliance forces entered the city Tuesday despite pledges to remain out of the capital until a new, broad-based government had been agreed to by all Afghan factions. However, Abdullah said the Taliban's sudden departure made it necessary for alliance troops to come in and maintain order.
The United States and others hope such a government can be installed during an all-party conference under the chairmanship of the exiled former king, Mohammad Zaher Shah.