%mlink(STRY:; PHOTO:LON119-111201; AUDIO:%)

LONDON (AP) _ Prime Minister Tony Blair said Tuesday that a U.N. presence is required in Afghanistan ``as soon as possible'' to begin building a broad-based, stable coalition to replace the fleeing Taliban regime.

Blair told reporters he believes that the northern alliance forces that have taken Kabul would accept sharing power in a new government, because that was a condition of the U.S. bombing that paved the way for advances on the ground.

``I think that you will find as the situation progresses over the next few days that everybody understands that the successor regime in Afghanistan has to be broad-based to be successful, because there are large numbers of Pushtun people who particularly in the south of the country who have to be involved in any successor regime'' Blair said.

``And it is necessary also to make sure that any successor regime is a stable partner for the surrounding countries in the region.''

Blair said he spoke to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan about the necessity to accelerate work on a successor government.

``That process is well advanced. It is only now with the military direction so clear that I think we are in the right position to be able to bring together the various ethnic and other factions likely to be involved in the formation of any successor government,'' Blair said.

``I believe we can, therefore, that we can make real progress toward the filling of the current power vacuum in Kabul. But we need a UN presence there as soon as possible,'' Blair said.