Peacekeeping force possible at conflict's end

Posted: Sunday, October 21, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The top United Nations envoy for Afghanistan said Saturday the international body will probably play a major role in stabilizing the country after the current conflict.

Lakhdar Brahimi, in a slight shift from his stance earlier in the week, said the United Nations may provide a peacekeeping force.

Before meeting Friday with Bush administration officials, Brahimi said the U.N. Security Council should not to rush into Afghanistan with peacekeepers once the U.S.-led military action there is over. He cited earlier peacekeeping problems in Europe and Africa as well as the complex ethnic and tribal dynamics in Afghanistan, a poor, mountainous nation that always has been hostile to foreign troops.

But on Saturday, Brahimi said deploying U.N. peacekeepers was one of many options being discussed in his meeting with the Americans, European leaders, U.N. officials and ambassadors from other nations.

Reappointed earlier this month to his U.N. post, Brahimi plans to travel to the region in the next week to meet with the leaders of countries neighboring Afghanistan.

The United States wants the United Nations to try to build a coalition to replace the ruling Taliban, if they fall as expected, and rebuild the war-torn, drought-ridden country. After Friday's meetings a senior U.S. official said Brahimi is ''very much in sync with us.''

The Bush administration has suggested a broad-based new government, perhaps a loose federation of tribes built around the 87-year-old former king, Mohammad Zaher Shah, who was overthrown in 1973. The opposition northern rebels and Zahir Shah have agreed to a traditional Afghan assembly to choose leaders.

Brahimi said it is too early ''to say what kind of formula would be more suitable'' to ensure a stabile political and economic future for Afghanistan.

But if peacekeepers are sent, Brahimi said, countries involved in the bombing campaign -- now the United States and Britain -- would probably not be direct participants.

''We agree ... that whatever arrangements that are going to be made need to be owned by the people of Afghanistan,'' he said. ''Otherwise it's not going to work.''

Brahimi said that a new government should not exclude anyone, including the opposition Northern Alliance. But he seemed skeptical about embracing moderates within the Taliban, saying the country's 25 million inhabitants ''have been held hostage to these factions.''

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