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UN News: Four UN Workers Killed In Afghanistan

UN News Headlines – 9 October
- Four workers for UN mine-clearing agency first reported civilian deaths in Afghanistan
- Security Council members voice 'grave concern' over plight of Afghans
- Annan: UN working to help Afghan civilians, protect aid personnel
- Despite 'precarious' security situation, aid build-up in Pakistan continues: UN agency
- Annan to address US public in nationally broadcast Town Hall meeting


Four workers for UN mine-clearing agency first reported civilian deaths in Afghanistan

9 October – Four members of a local mine-clearing organization funded by the United Nations were killed in Afghanistan last night during the bombardment of the capital, Kabul, a UN spokesperson said today.

Stephanie Bunker, spokesperson for the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan, told reporters in Islamabad that the four were killed when an office of the Afghan Technical Consultants (ATC) was hit and destroyed. In addition, four ATC staff sustained minor injuries and were given first aid at a local hospitals.

ATC is one of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working under the umbrella of the UN Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan.

The UN Coordinator for Afghanistan, Mike Sackett, today appealed to the international community to meet its obligation to protect innocent civilians while military strikes were going on. "People need to distinguish between combatants and those innocent civilians who do not bear arms," he said. "They also need to be mindful of protecting assets essential for the survival of Afghan civilians. Staff are clearly the most importance resource the aid community in Afghanistan has."

A UN official briefing reporters in New York said the four civilians killed were working as security guards for ATC, which is the oldest and largest anti-mine organization funded by the UN in Afghanistan. Employing over 1,100 Afghans, it is the organization "with which the UN has the closest possible relationship," said Martin Barber, the Head of the UN Mine Action Service.

Mr. Barber warned that with a greater number of people on the move in Afghanistan, the risk posed by mines and unexploded ordnance was rising. The UN's anti-mine programme in the country, which has been in place for over a decade, employs over 4,000 Afghans working in nine Afghan non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and six international NGOs.

The Deputy UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Caroline McAskie, stressed that the UN was making every effort to protect its local staff in Afghanistan. "We encourage them to keep in touch with all available information and to make the decisions themselves for their own safety and for the safety of their families," she said. "We make it very clear that that's their first priority and that's our first priority."

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Security Council members voice 'grave concern' over plight of Afghans

9 October – Expressing "grave concern" about the current humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, members of the Security Council today emphasized the need for the relief effort in the country.

"Council members stressed the need for all States to cooperate with UN agencies and to help create the conditions for humanitarian agencies to operate effectively," Council President Ambassador Richard Ryan of Ireland told reporters. "They expressed concern about the plight of vulnerable women and children, especially before the onset of winter."

Commending the work of humanitarian staff in Afghanistan, the Council members "noted and joined in the expressions of great regret by the United States and the United Kingdom at the deaths of four Afghan NGO personnel working on UN land mine programmes," referring to the security guards killed when an office of the Afghan Technical Consultants (ATC) was destroyed last night.

Council members called on the Taliban "to desist immediately from threatening the safety and security of aid workers, and to cease immediately the obstruction of aid destined for the Afghan people," said Ambassador Ryan.

The members reiterated the importance of ensuring the safety and security of UN personnel at all times and expressed concern about the deliberate attacks on UN offices in Quetta, Pakistan.

The Council members welcomed the cooperation of Iran, Pakistan and other States in the region in working with the UN to respond to the crisis, and called on neighbouring States "to enable essential cross-border deliveries." In addition, Ambassador Ryan said, the members stressed that the international community must respond to the needs of host countries.

Ambassador Ryan's statement followed a closed-door meeting of the Council, which was briefed on the humanitarian situation in and around Afghanistan by the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Kenzo Oshima. Also participating were Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Assistant Secretary-General Danilo Turk.

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Annan: UN working to help Afghan civilians, protect aid personnel

9 October – Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said the United Nations was continuing its efforts to bring aid to the suffering people of Afghanistan while working to protect its personnel in the country.

Speaking to reporters after attending closed consultations of the Security Council, Mr. Annan said Council members had all offered "their deepest condolences and sympathy" to the families of the four UN employees who died in Afghanistan. The members also "stressed the fact that we need to do all we can to protect innocent civilians in this struggle."

Commenting on the death of the UN personnel, Mr. Annan said "for the UN it was a hard blow." He said security for UN personnel was "something that is of great concern to me and to the staff in this Organization."

The humanitarian effort has become more daunting, according to the Secretary-General. "We are continuing our attempts to get trucks in but it is much more difficult because as you can understand, in this situation not many truck drivers want to drive in there."

He said the UN had taken all the necessary precautions to protect civilians. "Those undertaking the [military] operations have also assured us that all efforts would be made to avoid civilians, and that their efforts would be targeted and focused on the alleged perpetrators, and I hope that precaution will minimize civilian involvement," he added.

To a question on the political situation, the Secretary-General pointed out that the UN had long been engaged in seeking a negotiated settlement by bringing the Afghans together to create a broad-based government. "We have always maintained that there is no military solution in Afghanistan and that the Afghans have to come together and form a government," he said. "We would also need the support and cooperation of the regional and neighbouring governments which have not always pulled together and have worked in opposite directions."

Asked about a US letter to the Security Council concerning possible future action, the Secretary-General said "one sentence which has caused some anxiety amongst the membership which I've also asked about was the question that they may find it necessary to go after other organizations and other States. The US has indicated however that this is not a predictor of any intention that it intends to take but basically it is a statement that they are at the early stages and keeping their options open."

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Despite 'precarious' security situation, aid build-up in Pakistan continues: UN agency

9 October – Despite a precarious security situation and logistical problems in Pakistan's border areas, a build-up of humanitarian supplies continued today, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

Though the frontier with Afghanistan remained officially closed, several hundred refugees continued to arrive daily, UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski told reporters at a press briefing in Geneva. However, border monitors for the agency have not reported any large groups of people gathering inside Afghanistan. Some reports suggested that the Taliban had increased its armed presence in the border region, possibly preventing civilians from leaving.

By the end of today, UNHCR will have stockpiled 15,000 tents in its warehouse in the city of Peshawar, enough to shelter up to 80,000 people, Mr. Janowski said. Tents, plastic sheets and blankets were being trucked daily from Peshawar to border crossing points.

Tents were also being trucked from the Pakistani city of Karachi and other places to the southern city of Quetta, which currently has 4,000 tents out of the 20,000 needed to accommodate as many as 100,000 refugees, according to the spokesman.

Work on prospective campsites in Quetta and Peshawar areas was halted following yesterday's violent demonstrations in the two cities, which limited the freedom of movement of UNHCR international staff, Mr. Janowski said. Supplies continued to be moved during the disturbances by mostly local contractors.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported today that two convoys had arrived in the Northwest province and Kabul, while a third was expected in Herat at the end of the week. WFP said there were convoys loaded and ready to move throughout the region as conditions allowed. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said a truck convoy of its own would be sent from Iran into Herat.

In other news, the UN Security Council sanctions committee for Afghanistan has released a list of 11 organizations, 13 individuals and 3 companies that have been added to its consolidated list of individuals and entities associated with Osama bin Laden.

In December 2000, the Council adopted a resolution stipulating that all countries should immediately freeze the funds and other financial assets of Mr. bin Laden and any entities and individuals associated with him, as designated by the Committee. The Committee has twice before drawn up a list of such individuals and groups.

The new additions, approved by the sanctions committee last Saturday, includes the al-Qaida organization, as well as the Abu Sayyaf Group of the Philippines, the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria, the Harakat ul-Mujahidin of Kashmir, the Egyptian Islamic Movement and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

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Annan to address US public in nationally broadcast Town Hall meeting

9 October – Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, will address the United States public on 11 October - one month to the day after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C. - during a Town Hall meeting that will be broadcast nationwide.

Moderated by Walter Cronkite, the event will enable Mr. Annan to engage the US public in a conversation by reaching out to their communities. Via satellite from the UN in New York, the Secretary-General will detail how the UN can support the global effort against terrorism. After his address, he will take questions from people gathered in ten cities - Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Seattle, St. Louis and Tampa.

Each individual city will host a panel of experts and a local moderator to facilitate ongoing discussion after the satellite portion of the broadcast concludes. The focus of the local meetings will be the impact of the terrorist attacks on the United States and the world. Some of the moderators include NBC's Bob Costas in St. Louis, former Colorado Senator Tim Wirth in Boston, and the National President of the League of Women Voters, Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins, in Denver. The invitation only audience will be comprised of business and civic leaders, elected officials, youth, community leaders and clergy.

The Town Hall meeting is being produced by The Better World Campaign, a project of the Better World Fund, a sister organization to the United Nations Foundation. The Fund was created from a portion of an initial gift of $1 billion from American philanthropist and businessman Ted Turner. The organization is a bi-partisan, non-profit education and outreach initiative that aims to enhance awareness and appreciation for the work of the UN and the role it plays in international affairs.

ENDS

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