Ex-King of Afghanistan Vows to Return Home
Friday, October 05, 2001 7:23 AM EST
Rome, Oct 5, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Zahir Shah, the 86-year-old former king of Afghanistan, vowed Friday to return to his homeland and help restore peace to the country.
The former Afghan monarch said that he wanted to return "as soon as possible" to Afghanistan, which is now under threat of U.S.military action.
"I have always believed I could be useful to my country... I want to create conditions which will enable the Afghan people to freely decide on their future," he told the daily Il Giornale in an interview.
"The Afghan people are not responsible for these terrible acts, but rather they are victims of terrorism. One of my desires is to give back to my people the possibility of freely choosing their future without foreign interference," Shah told Il Giornale.
"If Afghanistan is given back to its people, then the world can be sure that there will be no further place for terrorists or foreign organizations in the country," Shah said.
Referring to his recent talks with representatives of the Northern Alliance, a loose network of ethnic minorities which has been seeking to oust the Taliban, Shah said, "We are trying to create a body to unite the Afghan population and work for its liberty and national unity. All those who want this are invited to make their contributions."
The ousted former Afghan ruler did not rule out a place for the Taliban in the future government, saying, "The future Afghan government will be chosen by the people and the Taliban are part of the people."
On Monday, Shah and Northern Alliance representatives reached an agreement on plans to form a government-in-exile.
The two sides agreed to convene a Loya Jirga, or grand council of leaders of all the country's ethnic and tribal groups, to discuss the ousting of the Taliban and the setting up of a moderate government in Kabul.
The United States is building up forces for a possible attack on Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, accused of sheltering Islamic militant Osama bin Laden whom America believes masterminded the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Shah has been living in exile in Rome since he was deposed in 1973.
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