- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) Talks between two warring tribes in the eastern town of Gardez ended inconclusively yesterday while battling rivals in the north of the country were said to have struck a peace pact.

Hopes for an easing of factional fighting that hampers the interim government's efforts to exert its authority on the country came as visiting Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov promised to help the Afghans rebuild.

There were conflicting interpretations of how talks went between rival clans from the majority Pashtun ethnic group after some 50 people were killed last week in a two-day battle for power.

"There has been no progress so far," Wazir Khan Zadran, the brother of the region's ousted governor, said after the talks in the eastern Afghan town of Gardez. Negotiations were brokered by a government team.

In Kabul, however, Interior Minister Yunus Qanuni said the government was optimistic about a breakthrough. "The situation is under control. We have a delegation talking to the parties, and we hope by tomorrow those problems will be resolved," he said at a news briefing. "I am very sure that what happened in Gardez will not be replicated in other parts of the country. There was foreign interference."

Clashes have also erupted in the country's north between fighters of ethnic Uzbek warlord Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum and an ethnic Tajik commander, Ustad Atta Mohammed.

But there were hopes the northern conflict might be reined in, with an official from a third local faction saying Gen. Dostum and Mr. Atta had agreed to establish a security commission to demilitarize the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif under U.N. supervision.

Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov, in Afghanistan yesterday for talks, said Moscow had played a key role in helping oust the Taliban and install the interim government, and it would not shirk from its responsibilities to a country it forcefully occupied for a decade ending in 1989.

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