Heavy US Pressure Helped
Forge Afghan Deal
The News - Pakistan

BONN - US officials put heavy pressure on Afghanistan's nominal President Burhanuddin Rabbani to step aside, threatening serious consequences if he blocked a new government, officials at the talks said on Wednesday.

Apart from the threat of withholding billions of dollars in reconstruction aid, the US reminded the reluctant leader that he would not be back in Kabul if it had not been for the heavy American bombing campaign that preceded his return, they said.

A US official called Northern Alliance warlords such as Ismail Khan in Herat, Uzbek Abdul Rashid Dostum and the Shiite Hazara leader Karim Khalili to have them persuade Rabbani to approve the power-sharing deal worked out in nine days of exhausting negotiations, the officials at the talks said.

Host country Germany also used its good contacts with Iran and Russia to get them to put pressure on him as well, the officials said. "The problems we had earlier with him are solved," said an official involved in the negotiations.

"Will we have future problems between now and December 22 when the transfer of power takes place, we will have to see," he said. "We ought to be prepared that people may raise issues and we will need to keep working with them."

Washington relied on Afghan-born Zalmay Khalilzad, a special assistant to President George Bush and National Security Council official, to telephone Rabbani and others in Afghanistan. In the corridors of the isolated Petersberg hotel where the Bonn talks took place, Khalilzad mixed easily with the Afghan delegates, helped by his facility in their languages.

According to an official close to the negotiations, Khalilzad confronted Rabbani with the message that anyone who hindered the peace process would be held accountable and face unspecific consequences. He was also told his reputation in history could suffer, the official said. "The efforts to put Rabbani back in his box have succeeded," a Western envoy said. "My gut feeling is Rabbani is being bypassed, eclipsed, but he is not out of the picture."
The News International, Pakistan


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