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Security Council Delegation Undertakes Wide-Ranging  Afghanistan Mission - 2003-10-31

A Security Council mission is heading to Afghanistan Friday where violence continues to undermine the agreement reached between political factions in December 2001 in Bonn, Germany. German ambassador Gunter Pleuger, who is leading the mission, has set forth an ambitious agenda.

Mr. Pleuger says Council members are undertaking the mission to signal the international community's continued support for Afghanistan's reconstruction process and the interim government set up by the Bonn Agreement.

Topping the agenda are trips to Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif where the German ambassador says Council members will deliver a strong message to local factional leaders to reject violence and work with the interim government to create a better security environment in preparation for elections next June.

"Military conflict between local warlords is, of course, something that is to the detriment of the authority of the central government and certainly does not improve the situation or the implementation of the Bonn Agreement," said Ambassador Pleuger.

Council members will also meet with members of the large Pashtun community but will not travel to Kandahar in the Pashtun-dominated south of Afghanistan because of security concerns.

Mr. Pleuger pointed out that Council members have scheduled a number of meetings with humanitarian, refugee and women's groups. He says the Council wants to stress the importance of integrating gender issues into all aspects of government policy making.

"That is one of the legacies of the Taleban regime that by neglecting gender issues and by neglecting the education and integration of women into society, this is not only a distortion of human rights but it is also a waste of talent and human resources," he said.

Afghanistan's efforts to stem the growth and trafficking of drugs is also on the agenda. A new U.N. report says Afghanistan accounts for more than 75 percent of the world's opium production and warns that the country risks falling into the control of drug cartels and narco-traffickers.

Ambassadors from Britain France, Russia, and the United States are among those participating in the mission.