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Annan Warns Against Taleban Harassment Of International Workers - 2001-08-23

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says that while the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating rapidly, the ruling Taleban movement is increasing its harassment of international aid workers.

In a report on Afghanistan, Mr. Annan says the combination of drought and war has produced more than 700,000 displaced people and that the number could be well over one million by the end of the year. The situation means hundreds of thousands of Afghans must now rely on international food aid for survival.

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard says the Secretary-General is concerned about the apparent increase in the harassment of aid workers by Taleban authorities. "Noting some coercive treatment of U.N. staff and arrests of national humanitarian workers, the Secretary-General says it is imperative that the Taleban cease the harassment of humanitarian workers," Mr. Eckhard said.

Recently, the Taleban arrested 24 aid workers, charging some with promoting Christianity. The Taleban have imposed a strict many say extreme form of Islam.

In his report, Secretary-General Annan notes that the Taleban continues to refuse talks with the United Front in an effort to end the fighting that has recently intensified.

Mr. Annan also reports no progress in convincing the Taleban to surrender accused terrorist Osama bin Laden or the closing of terrorist training camps as demanded by the U.N. Security Council.