Afghan warlords to disarm today

Published October 31, 2002

KABUL, Oct 30: Rival warlords in northern Afghanistan will on Thursday begin disarming to bring an end to sporadic conflict which has threatened to destabilize the region, a regional commander said.

Gen Abdul Saboor, a spokesman for warlord Atta Mohammad, said talks between regional leaders had decided disarmament was the best way forward.

Rising tensions in the north, particularly around Mazar-i-Sharif, prompted crisis talks earlier this week between Ata Mohammad and Uzbek strongman Abdul Rashid Dostum.

Ata, an ally of Afghan Defence Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim, and former communist commander Dostum have formed an uneasy alliance which has been repeatedly undermined by clashes between their troops.

In the latest bout of fighting, at least six people died just 25 kilometres from Mazar city — Ata Mohammad’s seat of power.

Saboor said it was decided to proceed with the disarming programme on a trial basis following Sunday’s talks, which were also attended by the US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, and US ambassador Robert Finn.

“There was a session attended by local parties, both Dostum and Mohammad were present. They decided to disarm both sides in areas where there is conflict. We will see how it works.”

Saboor said the programme would begin in the Sholgarah district, 40 kilometres southwest of Mazar, on Thursday, an area plagued by repeated outbreaks of violence.

Speaking on Monday at a news conference at the US embassy in Kabul, Finn told reporters that Washington was withholding aid from the Mazar-i-Sharif area until the fighting had stopped.

Clashes in outlying areas of Afghanistan, where heavily-armed warlords continue to solve disputes through conflict, remain a major problem for stability in a country still recovering from 23 years of war.—AFP

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