Secretary-General Kofi Annan's envoy to Afghanistan today concluded a two-day visit to Kazakhstan where he discussed with the country's top officials ways of moving towards a comprehensive political settlement of the Afghan conflict.
The visit by Francesc Vendrell, Personal Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan, was made at the invitation of the Kazakh Government. In their discussions, Mr. Vendrell and Kazakhstan's President and Foreign Minister exchanged ideas on how Kazakh authorities could assist the Secretary-General in the exercise of his good offices.
In other news, the Government of the United States today contributed $2.8 million and 83 vehicles to the Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan (MAPA), a move welcomed by the Office of the UN Coordinator for Afghanistan, which supports the demining operation.
Stressing the importance of the US contribution, the Director of the UN Office, Antonio Donini, said MAPA began in 1990 as the world's first indigenous demining operation. Starting with just over 400 Afghan deminers, the programme now employs about 4,700 Afghans in mine action activities throughout the country.
"The United States will never forget the long suffering of the Afghan people and will continue to provide a great deal of assistance," US Ambassador to Pakistan, William B. Milam, said at the Islamabad office of the Pakistan Red Crescent Society where the contributions were presented. He added that MAPA was "one of the most efficient and best demining programmes" in the world.
After 11 years, MAPA has been able to clear 550 million square metres of land and destroy 1.6 million explosives.
Meanwhile, the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention will field a donors assessment mission to Afghanistan on 23 April to assess the potential for a sustained reduction in opium poppy cultivation in Taliban-controlled areas, a UN spokesman said today in New York. Representing the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands and the European Commission, the donors will visit former poppy growing villages and opium markets in four provinces during their 13-day mission.