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Racing Against Time to Secure Peace

Negotiators raced against the clock to ink in a new government for Afghanistan on Saturday.

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Burhanudin Rabbani, President of the former Afghanistan Islamic Republic, is reportedly holding up the process

At the UN-sponsored talks in Bonn, Germany, delegates from various factions were making every effort to overcome decades of hostility as the world waits with baited breath. Their chief aim is to name an interim government and parliamentary council for Afghanistan. They are hoping for elections in approximately two years.

UN sponsors are pushing for a conclusion after five days of debates. Feeling the pressure, the Northern Alliance said it had agreed to a small interim power-sharing government.But was not yet ready to disclose names.

"The proposal for a bigger council has been changed to a smaller one with 20 members. The UN has accepted this and the people in Kabul have also agreed. We are now discussing on the members," said Amena Afzali, an Alliance delegate.

Afzali said that both delegates in Bonn as well as Alliance leader Burhanuddin Rabbani in Kabul, would nominate the members. However, Rabbani is reportedly stalling on the approval of the list of names for the new government.

Sieze the opportunity

Furthermore, Alliance delegates have said they are willing to bypass Rabbani if push comes to shove. This could cause additional friction since Rabbani is recognised by the United Nations as President of Afghanistan. "If he fails to do this, God forbid, all that remains for us is a vote by the people," said Alliance delegation head Yunis Qanuni.

"This is a very golden opportunity which must be seized," continued Qanuni who is also Alliance interior minister.

The Northern Alliance agreed in principle to share power with three exile factions. These include royalists who want the former king Zahir Shah to return as a unifying head of state. They have also agreed to allow foreign peacekeepers as demanded by the other groups.

A UN spokesman said officials still hoped the rival factions would complete a power-sharing deal by the end of the day Saturday.

Mark Malloch Brown, who heads the UN Development Programme, said in there would be no reconstruction funds for Afghanistan until the factions overcame their history of enmity and agreed on a stable government.

"Donors have seen the experience of investing in both Afghanistan and in other countries where that condition is not present the civil war resumes, the government falls, the investment is lost," he said.

The Taliban is not represented at the Bonn negotiations.

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