Afghan Envoy Says Ethnic Rivalry Threatens a Peaceful Transition AFGHANISTAN

Article excerpt

RIVALRIES among rebel factions could provoke renewed fighting in Afghanistan as leaders try to form a transitional government to replace the crumbling communist regime, warns the Afghan ambassador to Russia.

The rebels, known as the mujahideen, have seized control of all major cities in Afghanistan, except the capital Kabul, following the ouster of President Najibullah in a palace coup April 16. What remains of the fast-decaying Kabul government, which was installed by the Soviet Union following its 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, is negotiating with several mujahideen factions on a peaceful transfer of power, says Mohammad Daud Razmyar, the Afghan envoy in Moscow.

According to Mr. Razmyar, the biggest obstacle to ending the 14-year-old Afghan civil war is the ethnic and doctrinal differences between the two most powerful rebel factions; the Jamiat-i-Islami, led by Ahmed Shah Massoud, and the Hezb-i-Islami, or Islamic Party, of its leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Both groups have units positioned on the outskirts of the capital.

Foreign nations - particularly the United States, Russia, and Pakistan - must intensify efforts to broker an orderly transfer of power, otherwise there will be more bloodshed as factions battle to control Kabul, the envoy said.

"Afghanistan could become a second Lebanon and the war may only continue," Mr. Razmyar says. "Just as the former Soviet leadership made a mistake by sending in its Army, it would also be a mistake for the Western powers and other governments not to take a tough stand for peace."

United Nations peace negotiators have worked fast to secure an agreement between the government and mujahideen, but have met with only limited success. While Mr. Massoud has indicated the Jamiat would join a mujahideen transitional government, Mr. Hekmatyar of the Hezb refuses to participate in any rebel coalition. Instead, the Hezb has vowed to attack Kabul if the government does not hand over power to his group by April 26. …