UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council unanimously endorsed a power-sharing agreement for a temporary post-Taliban government Thursday and called on all Afghan groups to fulfill its goal of restoring peace to the war-battered nation.
In backing the agreement reached early Wednesday by four Afghan factions after nine days of negotiations, the council declared its willingness to support implementation of the 2 1/2-year transition it envisions.
The U.N.-brokered agreement calls for a 30-member interim authority to govern Afghanistan for six months, starting Dec. 22. The former king will then convene a traditional tribal council, or loya jirga, to ratify a transitional government, paving the way for elections within two years.
U.S. deputy ambassador James Cunningham said the resolution gave a "political impulse and endorsement to what happened in Bonn."
A vote on the resolution, which is legally binding, was delayed because the United States sought to include a reference to an international force to provide security, initially in the capital Kabul, diplomats said. The United States wanted the resolution to mention the need for a force to cover any troops that wanted to go into Kabul quickly, diplomats said.
The agreement asks the Security Council to authorize an international force in the capital, and possibly elsewhere later on, but other council members said they did not want to address the issue in Thursday's resolution until a number of questions are answered.
Other members said they want to know exactly what the Afghan parties want from a peacekeeping mission, who is going to contribute troops, and who is going to lead the force, the diplomats said. The council also wants to work out very clear structures and communications system to ensure that there are no clashes between the international security force and the U.S.-led military operation against the Taliban and Usama bin Laden, they said.
Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador Andrey Granovsky said the council needed to consult with Afghan leaders. "We want to know what they think about it. This is not a 'no man's land.' They live there."
Cunningham, the U.S. envoy, said a number of countries need to discuss how to meet the request for an international force, "and then it will be up to the council to act on that understanding."
One Western diplomat insisted the only sticking point now is who will lead the force.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday in Brussels that an international peacekeeping force will soon be sent into Afghanistan, although "the mix and the leadership" among nations has yet to be determined. "There will be no shortage of troops," he said.
Council diplomats said they expect a resolution authorizing an international security force to be adopted later this month. Work on drafting the resolution is expected to begin early next week, they said.
The council is also expected to adopt a third resolution authorizing a U.N. mission to provide humanitarian relief in Afghanistan, diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The resolution adopted Thursday declares the council's "willingness to take further action ... to support the interim institutions ... and, in due course, to support the implementation of the agreement and its annexes."
One of the annexes mentions the establishment of an international security force.
The resolution, sponsored by Britain and France, notes that the interim arrangements for Afghanistan "are intended as a first step towards the establishment of a broad-based, gender sensitive, multiethnic and fully representative government."
It calls on all Afghan groups to implement it "in full" and to cooperate with the interim government.
The resolution calls on all Afghan groups to allow humanitarian organizations to get aid to the needy and to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers. It also urges donors "to assist with the rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction of Afghanistan."
On Wednesday, the council issued a press statement welcoming the agreement and urging the parties to implement it "in good faith."