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Alliance to sign pact even if Rabbani opposes
By Vaiju Naravane

KOENIGSWINTER (GERMANY), DEC. 1. There appears to be a growing rift between the leader of Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, Mr. Burhanuddin Rabbani, and his delegation at the Bonn talks on the country's future. On Saturday, the Interior Minister, Mr. Yunus Qanooni, who leads the talks, indicated that he would be willing to sign a deal in Bonn despite opposition from Mr. Rabbani.

The talks between four major Afghan factions, the Northern Alliance, the Pakistan-backed Peshawar Group, the Iran- backed Cyprus Group and the Rome Group, which represents the former king, Mr. Zahir Shah, have reportedly reached a stalemate and could run into Sunday or even Monday, informed sources said.

Though a broad agreement has been reached on the structure of an interim administration and council, there is no consensus on the names of those who would serve on these bodies. The Northern Alliance delegation had demanded a 10-day adjournment of the talks to consult their leaders in Kabul. The request was turned down by the three other delegations and by the United Nations.

There was enormous pressure on Mr. Qanooni to strike a deal on a broad-based Afghan Government. The pressure was all the more intense ahead of a major donors' conference scheduled for Berlin next Wednesday. The donor nations have made it clear that no aid would be forthcoming if the parties failed to reach an accord. There are billions of dollars in development and reconstruction at stake and Mr. Qanooni would not like to take the blame for dashing that cup to the ground.

Mr. Qanooni today gave the first hint that he would be willing to break ranks and sign an agreement despite reservations expressed by Mr. Rabbani who said the nominees to an interim administration and governing council should be selected at a later date in Kabul or be chosen through a popular vote.

Sources say the talks have made ``significant progress'' and the envisaged solution will give former King Zahir Shah a ``federating role'' at the head of the proposed 120-member Supreme Council, which has been likened to a Parliament. The Council would give 50 seats to the Northern Alliance, 50 to the King's supporters, with the Peshawar group and the Cyprus group getting 10 each. The major sticking point is getting an agreement on the Cabinet-style interim administration which would have between 15-20 seats. Just who will head this Government and who will serve on it and with what portfolios are the key questions.

U.N. officials firm

United Nations officials said they were determined to extract an agreement from the four factions before they left Bonn. The U.N. Special Representative for Afghanistan, Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, in a telephone call appealed to Mr. Rabbani to show more flexibility and resolve the deadlock.

``In the event that Ustad Rabbani does not agree, we will refer to public opinion. We want to stand with our people, not with personalities,'' Mr. Qanooni told AFP.

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