Rabbani says some Taliban may join Afghan government
By Michael Steen
Sunday November 25, 8:04 PM
KABUL (Reuters) - Ousted Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani held out an olive branch to his enemies on Sunday, saying individual former Taliban officials could join a future government for the ethnically riven nation.
He also pledged that his troops would not kill non-Afghan Taliban troops who surrendered in Kunduz, the last northern city outside Northern Alliance control, and elsewhere.
Rabbani was speaking ahead of U.N.-sponsored talks in Bonn on Tuesday where representatives of four loose Afghan groups will seek to lay out a roadmap for a broad-based post-Taliban government.
"I should emphasise that as an organisation or party the Taliban will not be included," said Rabbani, who nominally heads the Northern Alliance, which has driven the Taliban out of most of the northern Afghanistan with the help of seven weeks of heavy U.S. bombing.
"But as individuals they will not be held guilty. Those that don't have very obvious guilt and are elected by a Loya Jirga are acceptable," he told a news conference.
The Northern Alliance has said it backs the idea of a traditional Loya Jirga, or grand assembly of tribal chiefs and elders, to agree a broad-based government to replace the Taliban.
Rabbani said Mullah Khaksar, a former Taliban deputy interior minister, was a good example of his Tajik- and Uzbek-dominated alliance's readiness to work with others, including ex-Taliban officials whose powerbase is the Pashtun south of the country.
Khaksar made his first public appearance on Saturday since defecting to the alliance when Kabul fell on November 13.
Pakistan in particular has pressed for "moderate Taliban" to be given a role in a future government.
Suspicious of the intentions of the Alliance's backers -- Iran, Russia and arch-foe India -- Islamabad is also concerned that the Pashtuns, Afghanistan's largest ethnic group, will not be adequately represented at the U.N. talks.
NOT KILLING ARABS
Rabbani dismissed as "propaganda" claims that Northern Alliance troops indiscriminately killed Arabs, Chechens, Pakistanis and other non-Afghans fighting for the Taliban.
"These foreigners who ask for pardon from us, we will hand over to the United Nations, they will know what to do," he said. "(But) if they are killed in fighting, that is their destiny."
Concern over Northern Alliance treatment of foreign Taliban was raised after the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said last week it had found up to 600 bodies in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
Rabbani said he had ordered his troops besieging Kunduz, defended by thousands of Taliban and foreign fighters, to observe international law when taking prisoners.
"Yesterday 500 people surrendered to our forces (near Kunduz)," he said. "Some of them were Chechens who had hand grenades, which they exploded and in doing so killed General Nadir Ali and injured commander Assad."
"Still, I emphasised to (Northern Alliance) General Dostum, don't harm them, they must be saved," he said.
MAJORITY AT BONN MEETING
Rabbani did not say who would be representing the Northern Alliance, also called the United Front, in Bonn, but made a point of repeating that his delegation should be in the majority.
"Regarding the composition of the delegation, the conversations we had with Mr (Fransesc) Vendrell, the U.N. deputy representative on Afghanistan, agreed that 50 percent plus one would be from the United Front, and 49 percent would be from all other circles," he said.
He said there should be 11 Northern Alliance representatives; four from the so-called Rome group, which supports exiled King Zahir Shah; three from the Peshawar group of Pashtuns living in Pakistan; and three from the Cyprus group, which was set up in the late 1990s by Iran to rival the king's group.
"They will agree on a provisional shura (council) which will talk about forming a provisional administration," said Rabbani.
The next step would be to convene an emergency Loya Jirga and seek its endorsement. "Once the provisional shura has been approved by the Loya Jirga, the Islamic state of Afghanistan will hand power over to that administration," Rabbani said.
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