Taliban role in Afghan government unlikely says Rice


The US national security advisor Ms Condoleezza Rice has said it was hard to imagine Taliban participation in the future government of Afghanistan.

"It's very hard to imagine a Taliban element to this government," Ms Rice told NBC television, describing the broad-based government Washington believes will be necessary to future stability in Afghanistan.

"I don't think the words 'moderate' and 'Taliban' go in the same sentence, frankly," Ms Rice said.

The US has in the past expressed concern that the opposition Northern Alliance -US allies in the campaign to oust the Taliban - could seize power, perpetuating the potential for conflict because they are primarily ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks, while the majority of Afghanis are Pashtuns.

But, Ms Rice said: "We're getting very good soundings from the Northern Alliance that they understand their responsibility to be a part of a broad-based government."

The US Secretary of State Mr Colin Powell said Washington envisioned an important but symbolic role for the former king of Afghanistan Zahir Shah in any post-Taliban government.

"I think the king plays an important role, a symbolic role," Mr Powell said on Fox television.

""I don't want to prejudge what the discussions might lead to, but it seems to me that his role would continue to be symbolic, as opposed to being the executive or the chief executive of the new government," he said.

The 87-year-old former king, who has lived in exile in Italy since 1973, has expressed interest in taking an active part in the political reconstruction of his country once the Taliban militia have been toppled from power.

Meanwhile the Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Ms Maleeha Lodhi has called for expeditious diplomatic measures aimed at establishing a broad-based government in Afghanistan.

"I think we, like the rest of the international community, would like the political and diplomatic process to catch up quickly with the military events on the ground," Ms Lodhi said.

"The entire international community is unanimous in calling for a broad-based an multiethnic government in Afghanistan," she added.

She said the focus now should be on a United Nations-led meeting aimed at establishing a power-sharing arrangement in Afghanistan.

Ms Lodhi called the opposition Northern Alliance "a key component of what a future dispensation will be, and it will be a participant in the assembly that is going to be called by the United Nations," she said.

She insisted meanwhile that, on the homefront, the Pakistani government is in "total control," adding that any protests are minimal and "diminishing."

"What we have seen is that the kind of rallies that took place initially when this military action started in Afghanistan, the support from amongst the religious parties themselves for that has been diminishing," she said.