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UN Dismisses Taleban Criticism - 2001-11-05

U.N. officials have dismissed Taleban criticism that U.N. agencies are not doing enough to provide humanitarian aid to needy Afghans. U.N. officials also say Taleban elements have not yet returned stolen U.N. property.

Taleban officials say U.N. humanitarian agencies are not doing enough to help Afghans as a harsh winter approaches.

Speaking at the daily Taleban press conference in Islamabad, Deputy Ambassador Sohail Shaheen said U.N. agencies are neglecting Afghans. "With the winter approaching, the weather is getting colder," he said. "It is unfortunate that the U.N. does not realize the problems of the Afghan nation. Therefore we demand the United Nations help the people of Afghanistan inside Afghan territory. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan commits itself to cooperate with United Nations operations in this respect to prevent any further harm."

U.N. officials say Taleban units have ransacked their offices in several cities, including Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif. They say in Kandahar there are numerous reports of so called "Arab-Afghans" or nationals from Arab nations, who support the Taleban, being involved in the takeover of U.N. offices.

U.N. officials also say many of their vehicles have been stolen by the Taleban. The Taleban Ambassador to Pakistan says an edict has been issued to return the U.N. vehicles and property.

But the spokeswoman for the U.N. office on Afghanistan, Stephanie Bunker, says that has not happened. "I think it is very clear we are not playing politics," she said. "We are the humanitarian arm of the United Nations. The last we knew our offices were still not in our possession, and the last we knew our vehicles had not been returned in Kandahar."

U.N. and Taleban officials agree that the approaching Afghan winter will put lives at risk. The U.N. World Food Program says heavy snows in the Anjuman Pass have already disrupted food aid deliveries to the Panjsher Valley where 100,000 people depend on U.N. food supplies.