Afghan ambassador to U.N.: Israel has a right to exist

NEW YORK — Ravan Farhadi, an Afghan ambassador to the United Nations, said recently that he supports Israel's right to exist alongside Muslim states in the Middle East.

"We are very much in favor of the fact that Israel has a right to exist," said Farhadi, whose opposition Northern Alliance, known formally as the Islamic State of Afghanistan, currently controls one fourth of the country.

"Experience has shown us that it is much better if peace is established in Israel, and Israel has a right to exist. We think if all the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council and the General Assembly are implemented, we will come to a stage where the coexistence of these two nations is possible," said Farhadi. "We are not a great factor in that region, and we won't want to be a factor."

In a briefing to the Middle East Forum on his country's recent history and its options in post-Taliban Afghanistan, Farhadi also accused Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism in his home country, and said he hopes to rebuild Afghanistan into a democracy and re-implement the rights of women.

Farhadi, whose Northern Alliance has opposed the Taliban since 1996, said Pakistan's military intelligence service supported the establishment of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan for dissidents from all over the Arab and Muslim world, including Yemen, Nigeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Chechnya. The United States and Pakistan are officially allied in the U.S.-led counterterror coalition.

Farhadi outlined his grievances against Pakistan last week at the U.N. General Assembly's debate on international terrorism. In his speech, he said the Taliban "was forged by Pakistan itself," and noted that some 8,000 Pakistanis are fighting alongside the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. He alleged that Pakistan provides the Taliban with political and military advisers.

"Today, we have [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf, who says he is contributing to the alliance against bin Laden and against the Taliban, and in fact they have created it."

He noted that his group's battle against bin Laden and the Taliban "did not begin on the 12th or 13th of September in Washington. It started five years ago, and especially when bin Laden was imported" from Sudan to Afghanistan in 1996.

In planning to take over the country from the Taliban, Farhadi said the next government must be composed of all of Afghanistan's ethnic communities, including Uzbeks, Tajiks, Baluchs, and Pashtuns who make up the ruling Taliban. He said that many Pashtuns, who compose 33 percent of the population, are opposed to the Taliban.

"I think we have to think about the necessity of having a new agenda, an assembly government that is broad-based, where all the people of Afghanistan can see their prospects," he said.

He also advocated a multiethnic army and a constitution based on Islamic law and legislation, with political freedoms and rights for women.

"What is important in this constitution is to be a democracy and to take care of all ethnic groups, the education of women and the participation of women in Afghanistan in the social and economic life," he said.