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Facts about Afghanistan's 'peace jirga'

About 1,600 Afghan community, political and religious leaders will gather in a huge tent from Wednesday for a traditional "jirga," or assembly, to debate how to bring peace to the country.

world Updated: Jun 02, 2010 15:09 IST

About 1,600 Afghan community, political and religious leaders will gather in a huge tent from Wednesday for a traditional "jirga," or assembly, to debate how to bring peace to the country.

The meeting is aimed at reaching a national consensus on how to approach peace talks with the Taliban, an Islamic militant group waging an insurgency to topple the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.

It is the latest effort by Karzai to persuade the Taliban to lay down their arms after almost nine years of war.

The rebels have repeatedly rejected talking to Kabul until the tens of thousands of foreign troops stationed in Afghanistan have left. There are about 130,000 international troops in the country fighting the Taliban, with the number set to rise to 150,000 in the coming months.

Following is a fact file on the event, officially called the National Consultive Peace Jirga.

+ The jirga opens on Wednesday and is expected to close on Friday with a declaration on what steps Karzai should take to end the war

+ 1,600 people, 300 or 21 percent of them women, will attend. All delegates are handpicked by the government. Taliban leaders have not been formally invited.

+ About 12,000 police, army and intelligence agents are providing security for the gathering, by creating a four-layer security cordon, along with checkpoints and surveillance, around the vast city.

+ The jirga opens with a traditional Koranic recitation, followed by the national anthem and a speech by Karzai laying out his vision for what he hopes the jirga will achieve.

+ Delegates will elect a chairman and two deputies, the divide into 28 groups with a spokesman for each chosen to deliver their ideas to the gathering at the end of the talks

+ The jirga will aim to defines a framework and a mechanism of how to pursue peace and who -- among a number of Taliban groups -- Karzai should engage in a peace dialogue.

+ Karzai's Western backers -- notably the United States and Britain as well as NATO -- support the gathering and about 200 foreign diplomats have been invited to the opening as observers.

+ Organisers say the jirga is costing about three million dollars but local media, citing government sources, have estimated the total cost at 160 million dollars.

+ Delegates, who have travelled to Kabul from from across the troubled country, are being accommodated at the Kabul Polytechnic University. Students were evicted from their dormitories and the institute was renovated in preparation.

+ Wednesday and Thursday have been declared public holidays in the capital, leading into the Friday weekly holiday.