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UN refugee official to hold high-level meetings in Pakistan on plight of Afghans

UN refugee official to hold high-level meetings in Pakistan on plight of Afghans

Ruud Lubbers
The top United Nations refugee official is in Pakistan today where he is to meet with high-level officials and tour areas hosting refugees from neighbouring Afghanistan in a bid to improve the relief effort in the region.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ruud Lubbers, is scheduled to meet today with Pakistan's Minister of the Interior, Moin-ud-Din Haider, and the minister responsible for refugees, Abbas Sarfraz Khan, according to a spokesman for the agency.

"This afternoon, the High Commissioner flies to Peshawar in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, where most of Pakistan's 2 million Afghan refugees live," spokesman Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva.

Tomorrow, Mr. Lubbers will visit the Jalozai refugee site, where up to 70,000 Afghans who recently fled the twin scourges of drought and war in their homeland are now being sheltered. The following day, the High Commissioner will meet with UN officials and diplomats, and on Monday he has meetings scheduled with President Mohammad Rafiq Tarar and Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf.

Discussions with the Pakistani authorities will focus on the High Commissioner's recent trip to Afghanistan. "Clearly, he is disappointed that the Taliban authorities were unable to immediately accept his plea for a halt to fighting so that desperate humanitarian needs can be met," Mr. Redmond said.

When the High Commissioner was in Afghanistan, the country's Government had promised him that it would agree to a temporary truce if the Taliban did likewise.

UNHCR currently spends $13.5 million to care for the 2 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, but it expects to increase its spending to $23.3 million by 2002, according to Mr. Redmond.