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Red Cross Confirms Permission for Afghan Visits - 2001-08-25

The International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC, confirms that Taleban authorities in Afghanistan have given permission for Red Cross delegates to visit eight foreign aid workers, who were detained earlier this month and accused of trying to convert Afghans to Christianity. But the Red Cross is insisting on certain conditions for the visit.

ICRC spokeswoman Antonella Notari said Red Cross delegates will not visit the detained aid workers before receiving certain guarantees from the Taleban. "We will insist that we can talk with each detainee in private, without witness; that we can register them; that we can deliver Red Cross messages to them from their families, and also take messages from them to their families; and, that we can repeat the visits as long as they are detained, whenever we feel that it is necessary," she said.

Ms. Notari said Red Cross delegates hope to meet again with the Taleban foreign minister and other officials on Sunday to work out the details. On Saturday, Taleban authorities agreed to let the Red Cross, diplomats and relatives of some of the aid workers visit the detainees. The Taleban are holding four Germans, two Australians and two Americans, as well as 16 local staff from the German-based aid group, Shelter Now International.

Red Cross spokeswoman Notari said when delegates from the humanitarian agency meet with the detained aid workers, they will bring news from home. "We have a few Red Cross messages that the families of the foreigners from Shelter Now, the international organization, have written to the detainees," she said. "And, we will deliver these. I think that that is probably one of the things that will be most of relief to the people detained, to receive news from their families. We will also ask them to write to their families, and we will deliver messages to their families as rapidly as possible."

Ms. Notari says the delegates will assess the conditions of their detention, and see whether they need medicine and other supplies. She says the Red Cross may not be able to visit the 16 Afghans.