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Afghan peace only if interference ceases: Rabbani

ISLAMABAD, March 25 Kyodo

Taliban government acting President Mohammad Rabbani accused Iran and Tajikistan on Tuesday of providing military aid to the Afghan opposition and said peace would not return to Afghanistan unless foreign interference was stopped.

Rabbani, who is also chief of the Taliban Ruling Council, told a press conference that foreign interference is a major cause of the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan and called upon the United Nations, Jidda-based Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and neighboring countries to play a role in preventing such interference.

''Iran is pushing for power for the Shiite population,'' Rabbani told reporters, adding that 19 Iranian soldiers had been arrested since May 1997 while fighting alongside the Afghan opposition in various Afghan cities like Mazar Sharif, Islam Qila and Nimroz. Similarly, he accused Tajikistan of ferrying arms to the Afghan opposition.

Rabbani said that the Taliban has agreed to form a steering committee of 10 to 12 members from its government and Afghan opposition to convene a commission of religious scholars to peacefully settle the conflict.

The Pakistan government will coordinate with the Afghan opposition to appoint their representatives to the steering committee, which is expected to be finalized within 15 days.

''We have put no restrictions on the qualifications of the members of the Steering Committee,'' Rabbani said, pointing out that the Taliban wanted the opposition to nominate real religious scholars, or Ulema, for the proposed convention and that the commission should have the power to decide Afghanistan's future.

''Friends like Pakistan and the Jidda-based OIC will help us in deciding who are real Ulema,'' he said, adding that the top leadership of the Taliban government is comprised of men who have graduated from religious schools and universities.

The Taliban government has long advocated that an Ulema commission representing both the Taliban and Afghan opposition should meet to decide the future of Afghanistan and that its decision should be binding to both sides.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Mar 30, 1998
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