- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 13, 2001

NEW YORK Regional and Western powers yesterday stepped up efforts to create a new government for Afghanistan as the Taliban teetered on the edge of collapse and the Northern Alliance marched on Kabul.
At the United Nations where visiting foreign ministers and diplomats were briefly sealed behind locked doors following a plane crash in nearby Queens diplomats from the United States, Russia and Afghanistan's six neighbors discussed the political and humanitarian crisis facing the impoverished nation.
The political reconstruction of Afghanistan has grown more pressing as the Northern Alliance has raced across northern Afghanistan and moved to within a few miles of Kabul.
U.S. officials have warned them not to take the capital until a transitional administration can be put into place.
With convoys of Taliban tanks and armored personnel carriers reported to be fleeing Kabul last night, however, the need to establish a new regime has grown urgent.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told the Russian and Central Asian delegations that the important thing is "speed, speed, speed," a U.S. official said.
"We're at that stage where the nimbleness is going to come into play," U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan told reporters yesterday.
The meeting was delayed yesterday morning when an American Airlines plane crashed shortly after takeoff from nearby Kennedy Airport.
Fearful that the crash was a new terrorist attack, U.S. law enforcement officials ordered police to seal off the U.N. compound and considered evacuating it.
In the confusion, Mr. Powell arrived late and Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar, unable to get inside the police cordon, missed the meeting entirely, diplomats said.
Against this uncertainty, the diplomats in the Afghanistan meeting and later in a special Security Council session on terrorism repeated their condemnation of al Qaeda's terrorism and its Taliban supporters.
U.N. and foreign diplomats also said a meeting of representatives of Afghanistan's main ethnic and religious groups could be convened in the next few days, possibly in Geneva or Vienna.
Diplomats discussed the possibility of a predominately Muslim peacekeeping force for Afghanistan, as proposed by Turkey and endorsed by Indonesia, Bangladesh and others. There was no mention of such a force in the group's final communique, however.
Speaking to reporters after the 90-minute meeting, the U.N. coordinator for establishing a post-Taliban regime, Lakhdar Brahimi, had no specific progress to report.
"I hope, because of these developments on the ground, we are going to try, as soon as possible, to get a representative sample of the Afghan population together, and see what kind of interim arrangements we can work together for Kabul," he said.
He has repeatedly stressed that any solution for Afghanistan "should be home-grown."
Asked about the participation of the Taliban in a future government, Mr. Brahimi said any party wishing to participate would be welcome. He will brief the Security Council today.
The meeting of the so-called "Six Plus Two" comprising Afghanistan's neighbors Iran, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and China Plus the United States and Russia issued an eight-point communique that condemned the export of terrorism by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terror network while stressing their support for the people of Afghanistan.
The foreign ministers "reaffirmed their full support for the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan."
They also agreed on the need for "a broad-based, multiethnic, politically balanced, freely chosen Afghan administration representative of their aspirations and at peace with its neighbors."
The U.S. delegation was led by Mr. Powell and included Richard Haass, the State Department's Afghanistan coordinator, as well as James Dobbins, the State Department's envoy to the anti-Taliban forces.


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