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UN Chief Urges Afghan Conference Participants to Make Peace - 2001-11-28

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said talks on the future of Afghanistan are off to a good start, and he urged all parties to seize the moment and bring peace to their country. He discussed the Afghanistan situation with President Bush at the White House.

Kofi Annan said the representatives of Afghan political and ethnic groups meeting in Bonn face a big challenge. "They have an historic opportunity to put the past behind them and form a broad-based government that will be loyal to the Afghan people and respect its international obligations," he said.

The Secretary General said many donor nations, including the United States, are willing to help rebuild Afghanistan. But he said they need a partner."And the partner has to be an effective Afghan government that is cohesive, that is stable, that will work with the donor community to ensure the resources that have been applied to rehabilitation and reconstruction are used effectively," he said.

During their White House talks, Koffi Annan told President Bush that aid workers are having trouble getting food to those most in need. He said millions of Afghans face starvation, including many who have sought refuge in neighboring countries."We are talking about 6 million needy people, between 6 and 7.5 million," he said.

President Bush agreed that the war has aggravated the problem. He noted that even before the start of the U.S.-led military operation, Afghanistan faced famine and drought. He said the current instability has complicated the task of feeding the hungry. "We have ample money and the United States has been a major contributor of that money. We have got the food. But the fundamental question is, in an environment that is not very secure, how do we get the food to the people"? He said.

Mr. Bush said he is convinced donor countries will get food, medicine, and clothing to those in need. But he left no doubt it will be difficult, saying a large task lies ahead.