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UN Rejects Responsibility for Afghan POWs

A U.N. official is making it clear that the world organization will not take responsibility for prisoners of war in Afghanistan.

In recent days, leaders of the Northern Alliance have suggested that foreign fighters in Afghanistan be turned over to the custody of the United Nations.

But Fred Eckhard, chief spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, told reporters the United Nations lacks the resources to handle prisoners. "We have a handful of humanitarian workers in Afghanistan," he said. "We are not in a position to undertake a huge operation like this. That is why I have been saying for the past 10 days that the Secretary-General has been talking to the coalition forces that have people on the ground to help in some way."

Mr. Eckhard said "you can not just turn to the U.N. every time you have a difficult situation and say 'do something.'"

The U.N. spokesman reiterated that whatever group takes custody of prisoners in Afghanistan is obligated under international law to treat the prisoners humanely.