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Afghanistan: top UN refugee official continues push for temporary ceasefire

Afghanistan: top UN refugee official continues push for temporary ceasefire

Afghan refugees
The United Nations top refugee official continued today his mission in Afghanistan, pressing for a temporary ceasefire so that relief workers could reach civilians currently inaccessible in the war-ravaged country.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers took his appeal for a truce to President Burhanuddin Rabbani during a meeting in Faisabad, according to a UN spokesman.

President Rabbani "said he agreed with the idea on condition the other side did the same," spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, adding that the High Commissioner hoped that the Taliban would follow suit.

Mr. Lubbers is scheduled to meet tomorrow with the Taliban's so-called Foreign Minister, Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, before flying to Pakistan to consult with high-level officials and tour refugee encampments.

In addition to pressing for a halt to the fighting, the High Commissioner is "discussing technical aspects of increasing aid delivery to those who need it the most," Mr. Eckhard said.

Afghanistan's humanitarian crisis, which UN officials describe as "perhaps the world's worst," is marked by decades-long conflict and severe drought. The combined effects of those twin scourges have pushed hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in recent months alone. UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, estimates that some 3.6 million Afghans live outside their home country.