Afghanistan: UN agency reaches accord with Taliban to resume bakeries project

Afghanistan: UN agency reaches accord with Taliban to resume bakeries project

An agreement reached in talks with the Taliban has allowed the United Nations to resume a major food distribution project which benefits some 282,000 people in Kabul, Afghanistan, a UN spokesman announced today.

The project, which involves bakeries supported by the UN World Food Programme, had been threatened with suspension last week because of disagreements over a WFP proposal to hire women to survey those benefiting from the effort.

"The renewal of food distribution, which briefly halted following the close of business Friday, comes after the United Nations and the Taliban reached an agreement, acceptable to both sides, on how to perform an adequate survey of the beneficiaries of the food programme in Kabul," spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva told reporters in New York. He added that WFP "believes the agreement will allow it to conduct the survey in an impartial manner."

Meanwhile, the UN announced today the appointment of Mike Sackett as the new UN Coordinator for Afghanistan. Mr. Sackett, a national of Australia, replaces Erick de Mul, who left Afghanistan on Friday to take up his new post as UN Coordinator for Angola.

Commenting on the imperative of delivering aid to people in conflict-ravaged countries, Mr. de Mul said, "This is the role not only of the United Nations and all assistance actors -- it is the duty of all human beings."

For his part, Mr. Sackett expressed profound concern about the intensely difficult situation that many Afghans face in the months ahead. "I hope to work with all the various players committed to improving the position of the people of Afghanistan," he said.

On the political front, the Secretary-General's Personal Representative for Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell, today wrapped up a five-day visit to Turkmenistan and Iran, where he held talks with senior officials.

In Turkmenistan, Mr. Vendrell met with President Saparamurat Niazov, and in Iran with Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi. The discussions focused on the current situation in Afghanistan, including the renewal of fighting, prospects for negotiations between the warring parties, and the humanitarian crisis.