By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
By Raillan Brooks
WASHINGTON, D.C.With signs that American attacks in Afghanistan are bogging down, the country's former king, Mohammad Zahir Shah, is meeting with leaders of different Afghan factions along with a delegation from the European Community in Rome to work up a provisional government of some sort.
Deposed in a 1973 coup, the elderly king has been viewed by U.S. and the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance as a potential unifying force for the Afghanistan's many factions.
Prince Mirwais Zahir, the king's son, said he plans to travel to the U.S. in a week or so for negotiations with American officials. He reiterated the former king's intention to follow the wishes of the people rather than attempt to re-impose the old regime. "Old style monarchy doesn't make sense in today's world," he said. "What we need is democracy. He has no plans to be king. We will return to Afghanistan not as the royal family, but as ordinary citizens. My father is respected by everybody and he would be a unifying force to rebuild the country. The next government may be called the Republic of Afghanistan or Islamic Republic of Afghanistan or whatever. We will agree with the people's wish."
Meanwhile, the Pakistan press reports that American warplanes bombed Northern Alliance positionsnot Taliban onesand that the Taliban repulsed a Northern Alliance thrust into the key town of Mazar-e Sharif.
The Northern Alliance troops now are being aided by a reported 20 American military advisers. The Taliban press service says the Taliban is arming the civilian population to fight the U.S.