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Italy
Undersecretary of State Margherita Boniver
Interview with Gian Luigi Capurso of IL SECOLO XIX
Rome, Italy
October 4, 2001

Rome. Abandon the Taliban to their destiny, Pakistan is ready to accept the Rome accord for the future Afghanistan. These were the words of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Abduyl Sattar and President Parvez Musharraf to the Italian Undersecretary of State, Margherita Boniver, who is returning to Italy today from Islamabad. The Rome accord was undersigned three days ago by all Afghan opposition parties following the astute mediation of Afghanistan’s ex-king Zahir Shah with whom Boniver will try and make contact later today. That this is the new attitude of the Afghanistan’s protector-State is confirmed by the Pakistani Ambassador in Rome, Zafar Hilaly: "We will accept any government legitimately elected in Kabul. This is why we were against the dominating role of the Northern Alliance that represents only 5-6% of Afghanis, and dubious about that of the ex-king". But the Rome accord is something else: all Afghan opposition forces represented by the Supreme Council of national unity, which will be the provisional government and will convene the decisive Loya Jiga, the assembly of all tribes, to define the definitive institutional framework.

QUESTION: Mrs. Boniver, where you entrusted with a message on this two day visit to Islamabad?

ANSWER: "I observed that Pakistani authorities are very interested, other than in Italy’s position in the international coalition against terrorism, in the role of "facilitator" played by Afghanistan’s ex-king who lives in Rome. Both the Foreign Minister Sattar and President Musharraf manifested notable interest in this option, an emissary of Zahir Shah will in fact be invited to go to Islamabad shortly".

QUESTION: This is a change in the Pakistani position.

ANSWER: "In effect, it is an important change in position: until a few days ago the Pakistani’s felt rather lukewarm about the ex-king".

QUESTION: Perhaps because Zahir Shah is no longer putting himself forward as a possible solution but as a mediator to resolve the issue among those Afghan groups opposed to the Taliban.

ANSWER: "In truth, Zahir Shah has always spoken about this famous Loya Jiorga rather than himself personally. He’s been speaking about it since ’99. Now the situation is becoming more focused. The tribal assembly must be convened by the Supreme Council of national unity. All Pakistanis we spoke with repeatedly underscored how a peace process based solely on a single figure such as the former king or a single organization such as the National Alliance would be unsatisfactory. They would find it unbalanced because they claim the Northern Alliance is not representative of all of Afghanistan".

QUESTION: From what you are saying Mrs. Boniver, its clear that Pakistan, who till yesterday was the state-protector of the Taliban government, is now thinking in other terms.

ANSWER: "My meeting with President Musharraf lasted an hour. Throughout his discussions, he spoke as if the abolition or "elimination of Osama Bin Laden and the defeat of terrorism in Afghanistan had already occurred".

QUESTION: Did this also include the elimination of the Taliban government?

ANSWER: "Exactly. Musharraf saw the end of the Taliban regime as a given. This is a very important turnaround".

END