Iran’s foreign affairs minister, Kamal Kharrazi, and his German counterpart, Joschka Fischer, held a joint press conference in Tehran on 24 October, at which they expressed differences of opinion over the US-led raids on Afghanistan, but agreed that a broad-based democratic government was the best solution for the country. ‘The transitional government must be representative of the different Afghan ethnic groups in proportion, and free elections should then be held under UN auspices’, said Kharrazi. He also urged the international community to give Iran more help in supporting refugees fleeing the conflict, and repeated Iran’s opposition to the strikes: ‘Military operations do not necessarily uproot terrorism, but they do victimise innocent people.’

Following a meeting with Italian and UK officials earlier in the week, Kharrazi acknowledged that the former king, Zahir Shah, could play a role in an interim government, provided he was not ‘imposed on Afghanistan by outside powers’.

Saudi Arabia would also support the return of the king to Kabul. After a meeting with Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on 23 October, Fischer said: ‘We agreed that there must be an inter-Afghan solution and that the former king, Zahir Shah, has to play a role on a transitional basis. We also agreed that the solution must take into account the interests of the neighbouring countries and the international community and that there must be an important role for the UN.’

There is no consensus yet about the role of the Taliban in an Afghan government, however. Kharrazi has repeated Iran’s opposition to proposals that an interim regime might include ‘moderate’ Taliban elements. The issue was not raised during Fischer’s meeting with Al-Faisal, EU officials said.