“The realignment of forces that appears to be under way, both nationally and internationally, could create a more favourable climate for peace in Afghanistan than has existed for many years,” Francesc Vendrell, the Personal Representative of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, told reporters in Islamabad. “The international community must not let the Afghan people down,” he stressed.Commenting on the fallout from the “sickening” terrorist attacks against the United States, Mr. Vendrell said the next weeks would be hard on Afghans, who were already suffering the effects of 22 years of conflict and almost three years of drought. “But this could also be a time of significant opportunity for a better future for Afghanistan if the international community approaches the Afghan people as partners in its struggle against terrorism,” he said. The envoy recalled that both the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, which have unanimously voted to support actions against those responsible, have long called for a political settlement in Afghanistan and for the establishment of a broad-based and fully representative government. “This aim is now more relevant than ever,” he said. “At this juncture, it is important to bear in mind that any initiative taken by the international community to put an end to the presence of terrorists in Afghanistan is far more likely to succeed if it has the support of the Afghans.”According to Mr. Vendrell, this aim could best be accomplished if the Afghans were persuaded that the international community was seriously committed to a lasting political solution based on the establishment of a government enjoying both internal and external legitimacy. “Only such a government will have the capacity to meet the aspirations of the various ethnic and religious groups that comprise the Afghan nation, bring about stability, and ensure that legitimate national interests of the States in the region and beyond.”The envoy said the Secretary-General was determined to persevere in his efforts to help the Afghans achieve a durable political solution. “This must be a truly Afghan solution, allowing the Afghans, without outside interference, to freely determine their future and to select a government that is committed to internationally recognized principles of pluralism, respect for human rights and minorities and friendly relations with all its neighbours,” Mr. Vendrell said.