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UN Official Says Pakistan Recognizes Need to Stop Taleban's Growth


The top U.N. representative in Afghanistan says that Pakistan recognizes the need to help keep the Taleban from regaining power. The U.N. envoy also underscored the need for continued cooperation between Afghanistan and Iran, despite mounting international concern over Tehran's nuclear program.

U.N. representative Tom Koenigs says Afghanistan's development largely depends on its relations with neighbors Pakistan and Iran, both of which exert tremendous influence over the landlocked country.

Speaking to reporters in Kabul, Koenigs said the Islamabad government knows it has to stop the strict Islamist Taleban from spreading and destabilizing the entire region.

"The government of Pakistan in aware that they have to prevent a Talebanization of Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said.

Koenigs is the chief U.N. representative in Afghanistan and recently returned from Islamabad where he met with senior Pakistani officials.

The talks occurred amid a sharp rise in Taleban activity and deteriorating relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Taleban ruled Afghanistan for several years until they were ousted by a U.S.-led coalition.

Afghan officials accuse Islamabad of not doing enough to stop Taleban and al-Qaida militants from establishing bases in Pakistan and launching cross-border raids.

Pakistan insists it is doing all it can to secure the border and help defeat the Taleban.

Koenigs says he left Islamabad confident Pakistan has a "growing commitment" to regional stability.

He also says both countries need to stop publicly attacking one another and try to settle their differences in private.

"Blaming neighbors doesn't help, cooperation does," Koenigs said.

The U.N. chief says Kabul also has to work hard to maintain good relations with Iran, which borders Afghanistan to the west.

"Afghanistan cannot, and must not, isolate itself from its close neighbor and there are a lot of fields for cooperation in trade, investment, and refugees," he said.

According to the United Nations, there are nearly a million Afghan refugees living in Iran, which is also one of Afghanistan's primary trade partners.

Iran is at the center of a growing international standoff over its nuclear energy program. The U.N. Security Council has given Tehran until Friday to stop its uranium enrichment program or face possible sanctions.

But Koenigs insists that dispute should not derail Afghanistan's efforts to strengthen ties with Iran. He heads to Tehran next week to promote greater cross-border cooperation.

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