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UN Chief: Afghan Peace Process at  'Critical Juncture' - 2004-01-07

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is warning that the peace process in Afghanistan has reached a 'critical juncture' and warned violence could disrupt upcoming elections.

In a report to the Security Council Tuesday, Mr. Annan said the security situation in the country had deteriorated at a time when the peace process demands that just the opposite happen.

He said attacks against civilians had risen dramatically in the last three months. The secretary-general said much of the south and south-east of the country is essentially off-limits to the United Nations, aid organizations and central government officials.

The U.N. chief said in order for the peace process to move forward, political organizations must be able to express themselves freely.

He said election teams must be allowed to travel to all parts of Afghanistan to register voters for the crucial mid-year elections.

Mr. Annan suggested convening a new political and donor conference in the first months of this year to address security and financial contributions to rebuild the country.

The report was released just hours after a bombing in the Afghan city of Kandahar killed at least 13 people, most of them children.