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Afghan Workshop on Former Child Soldiers Opens

UN Children's Fund opens Afghan workshop on former child soldiers

The top United Nations envoy in Afghanistan today opened a workshop organized by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) on the demobilization and reintegration of former child soldiers in the war-torn country.

Seeking to allay misunderstandings about what the process of demobilization, disarmament and reconstruction (DDR) was, Lakhdar Brahimi, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative, said it was part of the effort to re-establish peace and security.

He added that it was part of the security sector reform, and work was necessary to phase out existing factional armies so that one day there would only be the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police.

Meanwhile, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that Afghanistan and Pakistan had agreed to the gradual consolidation and closure of Afghan refugee camps near Pakistan's border for security and logistical reasons, and would sustain returns by focusing aid in the refugees' communities back in Afghanistan.

The camps in question include Shalman camps near the Khyber Pass in northwestern Pakistan, and camps around Chaman in Balochistan province, established during the height of the Afghan exodus in late 2001.

Starting next year, up to 50,000 Afghan refugees living in these camps will be asked to choose between returning to Afghanistan and relocating within Pakistan. An earlier Tripartite Commission meeting in May had already led to the return and relocation of some 19,000 Afghans stuck at the Chaman "waiting area" at the border.

"These camps are close to the border and are not acceptable either for assistance or from the security point of view," said UNHCR's Representative in Pakistan, Hasim Utkan.

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