Afghan warlord told to behave in Mazar-Britain
By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 11 (Reuters) - With a key northern Afghan city having fallen to rebels, Britain said on Sunday that warlords had been warned against terrorizing the civilian population.
But Foreign Secretary Jack Straw indicated there were no set plans yet as to whether the captors of Mazar-i-Sharif should be urged to form a broad-based government as the United Nations, the United States and its allies want for Kabul.
The rebels, part of the Northern Alliance, had their first tangible victory of war this week, securing a string of provincial capitals from the ruling Taliban, including the long-prized northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
Heading the offensive is Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek. Dostum's followers and the forces of other militia leaders who form the Northern Alliance were accused of rape, killing and pillage in the regions they controlled before the Taliban took power in 1996.
"There's the military grip, and then the political process you bring in behind that," said Straw, whose country was the first to back the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan with planes and soldiers.
"Militarily, it's actually imperative that the Northern Alliance ensure that city is secure from the Taliban," he said, and Dostum had to be held "to the discussions that have been held with him in advance."
"My anticipation, based on records of discussions I've seen with him and his interlocutors, is that they know their practices have to change this time around," Straw said.
U.N. officials said they hoped to send civilian, political and aid experts into the northern city as soon as they felt it was safe to do so.
"What we want to see, once there is security, is the beginning of a broad-based interim regime," Straw said.
"My own view is that change is going to happen most likely on a province-by-province basis. That is why the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif is so important," he said.
Straw said Afghanistan has traditionally had a provincial federated system and the balance of power in various provinces will differ because of differences in the proportion of Tajiks, Uzbeks, Pashtuns and other ethnic groups.
But he said "the principle that governments should be broad-based should not vary."
Straw appeared to distance himself from British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon, who said he would be happy if the Afghan opposition took Kabul. "I would be quite happy to see the Northern Alliance steam across northern Afghanistan and take Kabul," Hoon was quoted as telling London's Sunday Times.
President George W. Bush, after speaking to Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf late on Saturday, said the Northern Alliance was encouraged to head south "but not into the city of Kabul itself."
Straw said the United States and Britain wanted to make sure there were as few civilian casualties as possible, particularly in Kabul. "That is why I think President Bush is right to exercise caution in respect to Kabul," he said.
|Back to News Archirves of 2001|
Disclaimer: This news site is mostly a compilation of publicly accessible articles on the Web in the form of a link or saved news item. The news articles and commentaries/editorials are protected under international copyright laws. All credit goes to the original respective source(s).