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Britain Says Food Shipments to Afghanistan Are Increasing Despite War - 2001-11-08

British officials say food shipments into Afghanistan have been increasing, despite the U.S.-led military strikes against terrorist and military targets there.

The United Nations' World Food Program says 16,000 tons of food were sent into Afghanistan in the past week. If that pace continues, it will exceed the 52,000 tons a month that officials say Afghanistan needs right now to keep the population fed through the approaching winter.

Britain's parliamentary secretary for international aid, Hilary Benn, has said food is getting into Afghanistan despite the fighting. "The figures demonstrate that, notwithstanding the military action, which is being taken for reasons which I think are well understood, the amount of food getting into the country has steadily increased, week by week," he said.

Mr. Benn told reporters there are still difficulties in distributing food inside of Afghanistan, including interference by the country's Taleban rulers. "The Taleban continue to hold the World Food Program warehouse in Kandahar, which they seized, I think it was two or three weeks ago, and we currently have no indication what they propose to do with that," he said.

Officials say the world community has responded generously to a U.N. appeal for the international humanitarian effort. The United Nations asked for $650 million , and it has received $740 million dollars so far.

Relief convoys are now entering Afghanistan from Pakistan, Iran, and Turkmenistan. The United Nations plans to open a new route from Tajikistan within a few days.

Mr. Benn says that operation will carry 9,000 tons of food in 60 convoys, with trucks and snowplows supplied by the Russian government.