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UN Envoy: United Nations Ready to Aid Afghanistan's Recovery - 2001-11-06

The U.N.'s special envoy for Afghanistan has concluded talks in Iran as part of a diplomatic mission on Afghanistan's future. The U.N. envoy repeated calls for an early end to the bombing campaign.

Speaking to reporters in Tehran, Lakhdar Brahimi said the international community is concerned about the continued suffering of the Afghan people.

"There is absolutely nobody in the whole world, including the Americans and other members of the coalition, who believe that the Afghans themselves have been guilty of anything. So, I think we all regret profoundly the additional sufferings that is inflicted on the innocent Afghan people, and we can only reiterate the call of the secretary general of the United Nations that this bombing campaign stops as soon as possible," he said.

But Mr. Brahimi said the present situation in Afghanistan might create some unique opportunities for the future. The U.N. envoy said, in contrast to previous attempts to bring peace to Afghanistan, the whole world is now paying attention.

"The opportunity is that the world realizes that even a small country, poor and far away like Afghanistan, cannot be left to rot with its problems for so long without consequences for the whole world," he said.

While Iran condemned the September 11 attacks against the United States, it has also criticized the U.S. led bombing campaign. Iran wants the United Nations to take the lead in resolving the situation in Afghanistan.

Mr. Brahimi said the United Nations is ready to assist Afghanistan various ways. He said the first priority is the humanitarian crisis. "The United Nations is trying to do everything possible to help the millions of people of Afghanistan inside and outside the country who are in desperate need," he said.

However, Mr. Brahimi said resolving political issues and post-war reconstruction are also vital. "The United Nations has been, for well over 10 years, trying to help the people of Afghanistan with their internal conflict, without success so far. Perhaps this new opportunity will allow the Afghans and the United Nations to do better. The third track concern post-conflict reconstruction," he said.

The international community for the first time has understood and is determined to act on the recognition that a political solution will be greatly enhanced by a determined, serious, lasting effort to help the people of Afghanistan reconstruct themselves.

The U.N. envoy said it is understandable that the countries bordering Afghanistan have concerns about what happens inside that country. He said it is also vital these nations play a positive role in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan's neighbors along with the United States and Russia, the so-called six-plus-two group, are due to meet in New York next week to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. Mr. Brahimi said the group has not been very effective in the past but he said he hopes it might play a more positive role now.

Mr. Brahimi met with Iranian President Mohammed Khatami early Tuesday and later headed to Rome to meet with the exiled king of Afghanistan, Zahir Shah, to arrange for a possible meeting of Afghan factions to discuss the future of the country.