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Annan Hopes Bombing of Afghanistan Will End As Soon as Possible - 2001-11-01

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan says he hopes the bombing campaign against Taleban targets in Afghanistan will end as soon as possible to enable stepped up humanitarian efforts for the Afghan people. Mr. Annan also cautions that prolonged air strikes could create tensions in the anti-terrorism coalition.

Secretary General Annan expressed concern for the humanitarian plight of the Afghan people, facing war and hunger as winter sets in. He said he hopes the military campaign would end soon, so aid could be distributed.

"We do have disruptions from the ground, from the Taleban, where in some cases they have looted our warehouses and have interfered with our humanitarian workers," Mr. Annan said. "But the air operation is also an impediment, although we are able to get in some food. I think this is due to the courage of our staff."

He said the United Nations is getting in only half of the 50 to 60,000 tons of food and other assistance needed in Afghanistan each month.

Mr. Annan said the international coalition must stay together in order to defeat terrorism. But he said, ultimately, only a political solution can ensure Afghanistan's future - and he said the United Nations would be willing to assist in forming a broad-based government.

"We do not know how the situation would evolve, but if a new Afghan government were to emerge, we are prepared to assist and work with them to promote a broad-based government," Mr. Annan said. "The U.N. will be prepared to assist and give them technical assistance. But at this stage, I do not see going in to run Afghanistan as a protectorate," he said.

On another subject, Mr. Annan, hailed World Trade Organization conference planned next week in Doha, Qatar.

"I believe it important that people in developing countries have the chance to improve their lives through trade, and that is why I am looking forward very much to what happens in Doha very shortly," he said. "I hope very much that it will start a new round of trade negotiations, in which, for the first time, developing countries will be able to insist that their interests are given priority," he said.

He said trade can help alleviate some of the root causes of terrorism, such as poverty and unemployment.