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Effect of UN sanctions on Afghans limited, as strife, rights abuses take toll: report

Effect of UN sanctions on Afghans limited, as strife, rights abuses take toll: report

United Nations sanctions against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan are taking their toll against the civilian population, but their effects are limited in comparison to the ongoing conflict and other factors, according to a report released today at UN Headquarters in New York.

In his latest report to the Security Council on the humanitarian implications of the Council's sanctions against Afghanistan, Secretary-General Kofi Annan writes that the scope and magnitude of the measures is "greatly exceeded by the effects of the other factors causing humanitarian suffering, most notably the unprecedented drought, the continuation of the conflict and the widespread deprivation of human rights."

Noting that the UN sanctions, which were strengthened last December, have the clearest direct effects on civil aviation, the Secretary-General recommends immediate implementation of a plan to allow exemptions to the sanctions that would enable Ariana Afghan Airlines to address its maintenance problems.

As for the airline's frozen bank accounts overseas, Mr. Annan says that the Council's Sanctions Committee should consider granting supervised access to these assets for approved maintenance work and crew training.

According to the report, humanitarian exemptions have worked "relatively well" and aid agencies have faced no delays or obstacles arising directly out of the measures. However, the Secretary-General suggests that the Sanctions Committee clarify to the authorities of neighbouring countries the exact scope of their obligations under the sanctions following complaints by some Pakistani aid agencies that experienced problems in obtaining clearances for road travel.

The report also draws attention to the fact that most sanctions-related public information in the country originates from "Taliban sources, articulating their viewpoint and promoting the idea that there are widespread humanitarian effects from sanctions, something which is believed by most Afghans."

The Secretary-General urges the UN to be more proactive in ensuring that public information regarding the sanctions is accessible to the Afghan population.