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Former Afghan King will return to open 'Loya Jirga' council, UN says

Former Afghan King will return to open 'Loya Jirga' council, UN says

The Chairman of Afghanistan's Interim Administration has arrived in Rome to accompany the country's former King back from exile, the United Nations reported today.

Hamid Karzai will be escorting King Mohammad Zaher Shah from the Italian capital to Kabul on Wednesday, according to the UN Information Centre in Rome.

While the UN is not involved in the former King's return, the UN-facilitated accord on the country's political transition - the "Bonn Agreement" - states that he will open the Emergency Loya Jirga, or tribal council. The election process for the Loya Jirga began earlier this week, while the body's official opening is scheduled to take place this June in Kabul.

On Monday, Chairman Karzai met in Kabul with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ruud Lubbers to discuss the agency's strategy for repatriating Afghan refugees and internally displaced people, according to a UNHCR spokesman.

"They both agreed that security was indispensable to the repatriation of the refugees and the more people would return when there was more stability in the areas they are going back to," Yusuf Hassan told the press in the Afghan capital.

The agency estimates that over the past seven weeks, some 241,000 Afghans have returned from Pakistan, while since 9 April, nearly 5,000 have returned from Iran.