Return of Afghan King Sought
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ROME (AP) _ British lawmakers who visited Afghanistan’s former king said Wednesday a return to constitutional monarchy would be one of the best ways to bring a stable, democratic government to Afghanistan.
The lawmakers, members of the European Paliament, spent an hour Tuesday with former King Mohammad Zahir Shah who has expressed a willingness to return to Afghanistan to play a role in a transitional government if the hard-line Taliban rulers are toppled.
``The key question is, ‘is he the right man and can he do it?’ The answer is yes,″ said Edward McMillan-Scott, a conservative leader in the European Parliament.
The proposed government would include all sides in the troubled country, including even selected ``moderate″ elements of the Taliban, the son of the former monarch, Prince Mirwais Zahir Shah, told the Canadian Press news agency in an interview. However, the prince said that his father has made it clear he was not interested in restoring the monarchy.
Talk of returning the Afghan king, who has lived in Italy since his 1973 ouster, has increased amid threats by the United States to retaliate militarily for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the Penatagon and the World Trade Center.
U.S. officials have said their prime suspect is Osama bin Laden, who has been living in Afghanistan as a ``guest″ of the Taliban for several years. President Bush has said the Taliban would be targeted if they don’t turn bin Laden over.
In an interview, McMillan-Scott said the concept of returning a monarchy to Afghanistan shouldn’t be seen as a backward approach but a modern one. Zahir was particularly well-suited for the job because he still commands respect among Afghanistan’s many religious and ethnic groups, he said.
``Constitutional monarchy is one of the best guarantors of pluralist democracies,″ said McMillan-Scott.
Zahir is eager to convene a traditional meeting of Afghan elders, leaders and intellectuals to map out Afghanistan’s future.
``We believe the Taliban are going to collapse, so the way for the convening (of the meeting) would be tabled,″ said an aide to the monarch, Yusuf Nuristani. ``When, this is difficult to say.″
Zahir was overthrown by his brother-in-law, Mohammed Daud Khan, in 1973 while the king was on a tour of Europe, plunging the country into decades of civil unrest.