Tags: Ex-Afghan | King | Calls | For | Peace

Ex-Afghan King Calls For Peace

Monday, 18 February 2002 12:00 AM

Ex-King Mohammed Zahir Shah's aides also echoed Karzai's call for a greater role to be played by international peacekeepers, whose mandate is currently linked to activity in the capital of Kabul. They declined, however, to comment on reports of groups in the Afghan city of Kandahar raising the former king's flag and demanding his immediate return.

"His majesty indeed intends to return to Afghanistan, but he has no interest at all in returning to power and we have said that many times," an aide told UPI. "The best path for the people of Afghanistan is to establish a representative and democratic government. The current government (led by Karzai) is working to that end, and his majesty has given his full support to that end."

The 87-year-old former king, who ruled Afghanistan from 1933 to 1973, has said he will permanently move his base of operations from Rome to his native country around the middle of next month. It will be his first trip to the country since he was deposed nearly 29 years ago while on holiday in Italy.

The aides said that Zahir Shah believed that the best way to reduce friction between warlords and militant groups would be to increase the exposure of international peacekeepers -- Kabul's de facto police force who are prohibited from acting outside the capital.

"At the current time, Afghanistan lacks the resources and training facilities to keep the peace in (some especially problematic) areas," an aide said. "That will happen eventually ... but the peacekeepers can and should help maintain order in the interim."

The aides deflected questions about regional leaders in Kandahar raising the flag used during the former king's 40-year reign and telling crowds that they wished the former king to return immediately. Those developments have been heavily reported on in Italy.

The flag used under the former king's reign was outlawed after his government was toppled in 1973 and it continued to be illegal under subsequent governments, including the country's recent hard-line Taliban rulers. The Karzai-led interim government now officially flies the same flag, though its use in the country is still reported to be sporadic.

The former king has said he sees his role as a "father figure" for the beleaguered country. After his return in March, his first official role will be to call the traditional loya jirga council, or meeting of Afghan tribal leaders, who will decide the structure of the government that takes over when the Karzai-led government's tenure expires around mid-year.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Ex-King Mohammed Zahir Shah's aides also echoed Karzai's call for a greater role to be played by international peacekeepers, whose mandate is currently linked to activity in the capital of Kabul. They declined, however, to comment on reports of groups in the Afghan city of...
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Monday, 18 February 2002 12:00 AM
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