ISLAMABAD -- The two main rival mujahideen leaders in Afghanistan signed a long-awaited peace accord Monday, removing fears of another bloody war for control of the Afghan capital Kabul.
Ahmad Shah Masoud and rival Gulbadin Hekmatyar agreed to disengage their forces and entrust the city's security to an all-party neutral force at the end of a 7-hour meeting at Bagrami, 6 miles southeast of Kabul's presidential palace, said a spokesman for Hekmatyar's Hizbe Islami Party.
Sources in both Hizbe-Islami and Masoud's Jamiyat-i-Islami Party said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia played an important role as peace brokers between the two most powerful guerrilla commanders in Afghanistan. The agreement also calls for general elections within one year.
Masoud and his militia allies from the north of the country controlled Kabul while Hekmatyar's troops surrounded the Afghan capital from south and east.
A clash between the troops earlier this month left at least 80 dead and observers believed that they were capable of inflicting heavier punishment to each other and the citizens of Kabul, who are already suffering from 14 years of war which claimed an estimated 1.5 million lives.
With the collapse of the communist regime in Kabul last month, an interim Islamic government, headed by Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, took over April 28 but peace looked uncertain because of the Masoud-Hekmatyar power struggle.
Mujahideen sources in the neighbouring Pakistan province of Peshawar said Jalaluddin Haqqani, an influential guerrilla commander who has agreed to place his troops between those of Hekmatyar and Masoud to create a buffer zone, also attended Monday's meeting.
Haqqani, who also heads a 300-member peace commission, had been trying to arrange a meeting between the two leaders for the last several weeks with no success.
Ijazul Haq, Pakistan's labour minister, who flew to Kabul Sunday for peace talks, also attended the meeting.
Haq enjoys widespread respect in Afghanistan as the son of Pakistan's late President General Zia-ul-Haq who died in a plane crash in 1988. Afghan rebels believe Zia was killed for supporting their cause.
Mujahideen sources in Peshawar also claimed that Burhanuddin Rabbani, president of the leadership council of Afghanistan, was also present when Masoud and Hekmatyar signed an eight-point agreement designed to end hostilities.
However, they said Mojaddedi, president of the interim ruling council, did not attend as the accord reduced his importance as a compromise leader of Afghanistan.
The agreement did not extend Mojaddedi's two-month tenure which expires in June. An all-party accord signed April 24 in Peshawar had given Mojaddedi two months to supervise the transition in Kabul from a communist to an Islamic government. But he recently unilaterally extended his term to two years.
Monday's accord accepted Hekmatyar's main demand for the withdrawal from Kabul of the feared Gleemjam troops and other militia forces formerly tied to the ousted communist regime. But it avoided humiliating Masoud, who brought the militia to the capital.
Instead of taking away Kabul's control from Masoud and giving it to Hekmatyar, the accord said: 'The security of Kabul should be the responsibility of an all-party mujahideen force which will work under the supervision of the interior ministry.'
The accord also called for the gradual demilitarization of Kabul and for general elections during the scheduled one-year term of the interim government.
Under the terms of the new accord, an electoral commission is to be set-up and announce its final programme within one week.