December 15, 2001
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Key issues remain as UN works on Afghan resolution

Dharam Shourie in the United Nations

Several key issues are yet to be sorted out as the United Nations prepares to take up a resolution authorising a multinational stabilisation force in Afghanistan, but diplomats say it would be adopted not before Tuesday.

The resolution is delayed, as Britain is yet to announce clearly that it would lead the force. A British military team has been sent on a reconnaissance trip to Kabul, while the government is trying to work out the operational details of the force.

It is also apparently holding discussions with the United States, which has refused to coordinate with the force when it is fighting the anti-terror war in the country.

Another issue has arisen over a letter to the 15-member Council from Afghan interim Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, who wants the deployment of a limited force and a mandate under Chapter six of the UN Charter, which does not clearly allow use of force.

In the letter, Abdullah said the Afghan government must agree on the nationality and size of military units, their location, role, and the duration of their deployment.

"The Afghan government ... agrees with the deployment of multinational forces in Afghanistan on the basis of Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter," he said.

Troop contributors would like the mandate to be under Chapter seven of the charter, which would provide use of force to enforce the mandate of the Council.

Abdullah's letter was discussed at a closed meeting of the Council on Friday, which was attended by UN special envoy for Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi.

Brahimi said he was not pressing the Council for immediate action on deployment of force despite the delay.

He said the Bonn agreement had the support of all Afghan factions and said the transfer of power to the new interim government was "going to happen".

Britain's UN Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock said Brahimi told the Council that the Afghans had made it "unequivocally clear" that they wanted the force and "that it would be popularly received, but he understands that a lot of work has to be done to put it together".

The diplomats said the possibility of deployment of a large force by December 22 -- when the interim government takes over -- is remote, but a small number might be in place if things worked out.

The estimated strength of the force ultimately is around 5,000 and it would initially provide security in Kabul and surrounding areas.

The resolution has been formally circulated among the Security Council members. Generally, it is done twenty-four hours in advance to enable members to consult their governments before voting.

Since Monday is a holiday for Id, Tuesday is the earliest that the Council can meet.

The five permanent members -- the US, Britain, Russia, France and China -- have to agree on the resolution before it can be adopted.

The resolution is expected to state that Britain would lead the force, which would be authorised by the UN, but would not be under the command of the world body.

The Europeans, who would contribute the bulk of troops, also want the consent of the Afghan parties to such a force.


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