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UN News: Brahimi's efforts on Afghanistan Backed

HEADLINES:
- Security Council backs Brahimi's efforts on Afghanistan
- Annan's envoy says Middle East at 'most dangerous moment' in a decade
- Funding for Afghanistan emergency improves but still falls short, UN agency says

Security Council backs Brahimi's efforts on Afghanistan

23 October – After a briefing by the United Nations lead envoy on Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, members of the Security Council today backed his efforts in the search for a political solution in the country while expressing concern about the humanitarian plight of the Afghan people.

"There was an exchange of views on the humanitarian, political and military situation in and around Afghanistan, and a discussion about the future possible role of the UN," Ambassador Richard Ryan of Ireland, the current President of the 15-nation body, said in a press statement after the closed-door meeting. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell, also took part in the session.

"Council members reiterated their full support for the work of Mr. Brahimi and encouraged him to continue his consultations," Ambassador Ryan said.

Speaking to the press after the meeting, Special Representative Brahimi said he was preparing to go to the region in the next few days to talk to as many Afghan parties as possible in search of a "home grown" solution to the current crisis.

"Nobody wants an arrangement that is imposed on Afghanistan," Mr. Brahimi told reporters after his briefing to the Security Council. "The Afghans would not accept it, and the international community understands that, and we in the UN would definitely not be part of a thing like that."

As for the humanitarian situation in the country, members of the Security Council urged neighbouring countries to intensify their cooperation with the UN in responding to the refugee crisis. They also demanded that the Taliban stop preventing aid from reaching the Afghan people and stop threatening the safety and security of aid workers,

In the statement, Council members stressed the importance of ensuring that emergency supplies were delivered to Afghans in need as quickly as possible. They called on States to disburse rapidly their contributions to the UN emergency humanitarian appeals for Afghanistan, highlighting also the need for the international community to respond financially to the needs of the neighbouring host countries.

Commending the work of humanitarian workers in the region, the Council reiterated the importance of ensuring their safety and security at all times.

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Annan's envoy says Middle East at 'most dangerous moment' in a decade

23 October – A special envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said the Middle East was at "the most dangerous moment in a decade" and called for "courageous leadership" on the part of the Palestinians and the Israelis.

"There are those on both sides who believe that blood must wash blood," said the Special Coordinator for the Middle East, Terje Roed-Larsen, in a statement released in Gaza. "The leaders carry a heavy burden to break this dangerous logic."

Mr. Roed-Larsen said it was necessary for both leaders to take very unpopular decisions, which were in the long-term security and political interests of the Palestinian and Israeli people. "This is the essence of leadership," he said.

Despite the current deep crisis and impasse, Mr. Roed-Larsen said it was still possible to see a road forward. "A majority of Israelis support the creation of a Palestinian state; a majority of Israelis support the evacuation of the settlements; a majority of Palestinians still support a peace deal with Israel; and a majority of Palestinians still support reconciliation with Israel in the context of a peace deal," he said. "We need courage and creativity to move forward."

At UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Annan's spokesman said that besides receiving constant updates from Mr. Roed-Larsen, the Secretary-General has been in touch by telephone with the key players. "His position on the Middle East is unchanged," spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

"The Secretary-General feels that the United States yesterday gave very wise advice to the parties and they should heed that advice," he said, referring to a US statement calling for the Israelis to withdraw from Palestinian-controlled areas and for the Palestinian Authority to do all in its power to control violence and bring terrorists to justice.

Meanwhile, the representatives of Mali and Qatar have written to the President of the Security Council requesting a meeting of the Council "in order to take the necessary action to ensure the full and immediate withdrawal of Israeli occupation forces from Palestinian areas it has reoccupied recently."

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Funding for Afghanistan emergency improves but still falls short, UN agency says

23 October – Despite an infusion of more than $19 million over the weekend, cash contributions for the first phase of operations to help those fleeing Afghanistan still fall far short of what is needed, the United Nations refugee agency said today.

Kris Janowski, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a press briefing in Geneva that the agency received additional donations from the United States, Germany, Australia, Finland, Luxembourg and the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), bringing to over $31 million the total of cash contributions.

"This still represents less than two-thirds of the [$50 million] required for the first phase of the operation," he said. "The operation is still proceeding hand-to-mouth."

Meanwhile, the agency and its partners were preparing a temporary staging site a little over a mile from the Chaman border in Pakistan where they could provide for urgent humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable cases, Mr. Janowski said. Work was continuing on two longer-term sites. The Afghan borders with Iran and Pakistan remained closed and were reported quiet, he added.

Elsewhere in the region, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) were bringing supplies to Afghans stranded in the no-man's land on the Afghan side of the border with Pakistan.

WFP started distributing high protein biscuits and reported that the people appeared to be tired and "in pretty bad shape." Only one-third of them had shelter materials with them. For its part, UNICEF was conducting spot-checks on the health conditions of children. Drinking water and sweaters were also distributed.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan-based UN Humanitarian Coordinator's Office said that reports from Kabul indicated that several bombs had hit residential areas close to health and feeding centres. Residential areas were becoming more dangerous because Taliban troops have moved into those areas, spokesperson Stephanie Bunker told reporters in Islamabad.

Ms. Bunker also said that a hospital in Herat was hit and was reportedly destroyed. "It was a military hospital in a military compound on the eastern outskirts of the city," she said. "The number of casualties is not known."


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