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Sr Envoy & Iranian President Confer On Afghanistan

Senior UN envoy and Iranian President confer on reconstruction of Afghanistan

19 May 2008 - The top United Nations envoy to Afghanistan met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran today in a bid to boost support for the reconstruction of the strife-torn Asian nation.

"We had a very constructive discussion on the challenges facing Afghanistan and the importance of full cooperation with Afghanistan's neighbours to help secure peace, stability and progress for all people in the region," Kai Eide, the Secretary-General's Special Representative, said following the talks.

He said the two agreed that a stable Afghanistan will benefit Iran, and noted that they also discussed next month's Paris Conference in support of the Afghan Government and the current food crisis.

"I interpret the fact that the President received me immediately upon my arrival in Tehran today as a clear sign of support for my mission and for our work together in the future," Mr. Eide, who also heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) noted.

He added that he is grateful for the Iranian people's generosity towards Afghanistan, voicing hope that the relationship between the two countries will continue to grow.

During his two-day visit to Iran, the Special Representative will also meet with the country's Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Refugees, Interior and Defence.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, UNAMI reported that a convoy of 79 trucks carrying UN World Food Programme (WFP) aid was attacked by anti-Government elements using small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

The incident took place on Saturday on the main ring road in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province as the convoy was headed towards Herat and Nimroz provinces.

Two trucks were hit by grenades and burned down, resulting in a loss of 84 tons of wheat to feed over 10,000 people, and no casualties were reported.

In a separate incident on 8 May, a truck carrying 48 tons of wheat for 6,000 people went missing as it was making its way from Kandahar to Herat.

WFP said that there have been more than 30 attacks against commercial vehicles or convoys loaded with the agency's supplies in 2007, with 870 tons of food - worth over $700,000 - being lost. In at least four of these incidents, crew members and Afghan police escorts were either killed or injured.

"The United Nations is working to deliver life-saving assistance to Afghanistan's poorest people under a strict principle of impartiality," UNAMA's acting spokesperson Aleem Siddique told reporters in the capital Kabul. "We condemn the unscrupulous theft and pointless destruction of such life-saving food aid."

The most recent incidents come at a time when Afghanistan is facing a difficult food security situation, he said, appealing for an immediate end to the attacks which inhibit the delivery of food to communities most in need.

ENDS

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