Welcoming the agreement among Afghan groups in Bonn on the establishment of an interim authority, Pakistan offered felicitations to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and his special representative Lakhdar Brahimi.

"We hope the Bonn meeting will also agree on the composition of the interim administration as mutual accommodation is necessary for return of peace and stability to Afghanistan after more than two decades of conflict and strife," it said in a statement.

Pakistan described the tidings from Bonn as a "propitious moment for an end to the travails of Afghan people".

"Pakistan too has borne heavy economic and social costs as a result of the Afghan conflict," Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan said.

"The provision of asylum to over three million refugees has resulted in consequential environmental damage, proliferation of weapons, narcotics trafficking, smuggling and terrorist crimes," he added.

Despite the heavy cost it has to bear by providing asylum to over three million refugees, Pakistan will contribute to the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afghanistan, the statement said.

Meanwhile Pakistan also said it desires peace with India through resolution of the basic dispute over Kashmir, Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said yesterday.

"We recognise India is a big country. We want solution of Kashmir on the basis of UN resolutions and international law," he said in an interview broadcast by Pakistan Television.

"If the issue is not resolved and tension continues, India will also suffer from the situation," he said.

Sattar said Pakistan had earned international goodwill by joining the world coalition against terrorism. He said the government had taken the right decision that saved the country from isolation that is dangerous for any nation.He cited the instance of Taliban who shunned the world and "paid the price" for their policy, the foreign minister said.

Pakistan hopes to get some debt-relief from donors while it is pinning its economic hopes on spreading repayment on its $38 billion debt over a long period with low interest and greater access to foreign markets, he said.

The European Union has already agreed to facilitate more access to its markets while the United States and Japan were expected to do so, Sattar said.

Pakistan yesterday also strongly condemned Israeli attacks on symbols of Palestinian National Authority including a heliport and residence of Yasser Arafat.

In a statement the government said Israeli was deliberately trying to undermine the Palestinian authority and its structure. "There is an urgent need for restraint," the statement said, adding that Pakistan hoped for resumption of negotiations in response to the call by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Meanwhile, the United Nations yesterday appealed to Northern Alliance political leader Burhanuddin Rabbani to continue cooperating in efforts to set up an interim administration in Afghanistan.

UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said the world body would consult with Rabbani, the UN-recognised head of state, in choosing a date to formally transfer power to the new interim administration.
There have been reports that Rabbani is unhappy with the negotiating process at the Afghan talks in Bonn and that he may be reluctant to step aside.

Fawzi said the United Nations had not made any deal with Rabbani in return for his cooperation in the ongoing talks.

"But I can say I would make an appeal to Rabbani to contine cooperating with the UN and to continue supporting the Bonn process until the successful conclusion of the transfer of power," Fawzi told reporters here.

"Today we will be consulting with him on the date upon which the new administration can assume power," the UN spokesman said.

Haji Qadir, a powerful ethnic Pashtun leader and delegate to the Bonn talks who quit the conference complaining his Northern Alliance delegation did not fairly represent the Pashtun majority, has apologised, an Alliance source said yesterday.

Qadir, who walked out of the Afghan power-sharing talks at the German government guest house of Petersberg soon after they began last week, has returned to the conference but is taking no part in the negotiations, the source said.

"Yes, he came back with a bit of embarassment and apologized," the source said. "He sometimes shows up here at the Petersberg, but he is not that important after what he did," the source added.

Qadir's walk-out could have led to the collapse of the landmark talks if the two other Pashtun delegates – Abdullah Khan and Aref Noorzay – on the Alliance team had followed suit.

The Alliance source alleged that Qadir came back only when he realised his attempt to undermine the talks had failed.