Pushtun Elders Call On Taliban To Cede Power To Ex-king

Former Afghan field commanders and elders from five southern Pushtun tribes have called on the Taliban to give up power peacefully in favour of a government headed by the ex-king, Zahir Shah. The Dawn newspaper wrote on Friday that 12 Afghan leaders had held a joint press conference in the Pakistani border town of Quetta (capital of the Bahuchistan province) on Afghanistan's future political system. The commanders and tribe leaders from the provinces of Farah, Kandahar, Helmand, Zabol and Uruzgan announced that sub-divisions of the Northern Alliance would not be allowed into the Pushtun-controlled regions of Afghanistan. They condemned the United Front's taking of Kabul, branding it, according to the paper, a "big mistake." At the same time, the Pushtun leaders heaped condemnation on Osama bin Laden, calling him "a terrorist and an enemy of the people of Afghanistan, responsible not only for the murder of Americans, but also innocent Afghans, as well as the ruination of our country." One of those present, Haji Abdul Haliq Noorzai, stressed that "we shall find bin Laden and his foreign terrorists to bring them to justice." The meeting's participants announced that they supported permanent contacts with the Taliban leadership, their military command structure and spiritual leader Mohammad Omar. They also planned to send a delegation, including figures respected by the Talib! ! an, to Kandahar in the near future. The delegation will try to persuade mullah Omar to cede power peacefully to avoid any further bloodshed.

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