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UN Conference Discusses Afghanistan Aid - 2001-12-05

The Afghanistan Support Group of donor nations and international organizations opened Wednesday in Berlin with pleas for generous and urgent help to put the country back on its feet and bring millions of refugees back home.

Just hours after Afghan delegates in the German city of Bonn signed their hard won agreement on the shape of an interim government to rule the country for the next six months, donor nations gathered in Berlin to pledge humanitarian aid and reconstruction.

The scale of the problem was put into dramatic perspective by United Nations Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Kenzo Oshima, who said the first need is a secure environment for the people of Afghanistan and for those who want to help them.

Humanitarian operations are now beginning to get under way in the cities of Kabul and Herat, he said, and the United Nations hopes to start extending its work soon into the hills around Kabul.

But he added that without security and an end to the lawlessness in the country at large, millions of people still in need cannot be helped.

In some of the worst areas in the north and west of the country, it has so far been impossible even to work out clearly what help is really needed because of the lack of access and security.

Unless this situation changes rapidly, Mr. Oshima warned, there will be many more refugees on the move and many more deaths.

The U.N. official told delegates that at least $600 million will be needed for the next six months, but only half that amount has been pledged so far. So he urged them to give generously.

The conference chairman meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, urged the Afghans themselves to ensure the agreement they approved Wednesday is implemented quickly. Their responsibility, he said, does not end with the agreement in Bonn, but in turning those decisions into reality at home.

If they do that, said Mr. Fischer, Afghanistan has its first real chance in many years of enjoying a future of peace and stability. It will be a future, he said, that guarantees human rights and dignity, especially for women, a future in a united country, without war, without terror and without violence.