The exiled former king of Afghanistan has won a pledge of support from US Congressmen as part of his attempts to forge a broad coalition that could replace the Taleban regime in Kabul.
The upbeat US congressmen told journalists after the talks at his Rome residence today that they are convinced the former king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, has a key role to play in a new Afghanistan.
Delegation leader Curt Weldon said that the ailing, 86-year old ex-king had told them he wanted any action to free Afghanistan to be organised through the UN, but if this were not possible he would not oppose a US-led operation.
The congressmen also met senior members of the Northern Alliance and other Afghan commanders, including the brother of murdered commander Ahmed Shah Massoud. These anti-Taleban forces have been meeting with the King and his counsellors over the weekend to forge a new broader alliance under the auspices of the King that could step in to avoid a power vacuum if the Taleban are overthrown as a direct, or indirect result of US military action.
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The ex-king’s involvement in talks on the country’s future, including with a UN envoy, has markedly failed to attract widespread support among the key Afghan factions, however. The former monarch, who has lived in exile with his family since his overthrow in 1973, has called for the convening of a Loya Jirga, or a grand assembly of elders, to try to galvanise the warring Afghan factions behind a single government of national unity.