Annan: UN working to help Afghan civilians, protect aid personnel

Annan: UN working to help Afghan civilians, protect aid personnel

Annan speaking to the press
Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said the United Nations was continuing its efforts to bring aid to the suffering people of Afghanistan while working to protect its personnel in the country.

Speaking to reporters after attending closed consultations of the Security Council, Mr. Annan said Council members had all offered "their deepest condolences and sympathy" to the families of the four UN employees who died in Afghanistan. The members also "stressed the fact that we need to do all we can to protect innocent civilians in this struggle."

Commenting on the death of the UN personnel, Mr. Annan said "for the UN it was a hard blow." He said security for UN personnel was "something that is of great concern to me and to the staff in this Organization."

The humanitarian effort has become more daunting, according to the Secretary-General. "We are continuing our attempts to get trucks in but it is much more difficult because as you can understand, in this situation not many truck drivers want to drive in there."

He said the UN had taken all the necessary precautions to protect civilians. "Those undertaking the [military] operations have also assured us that all efforts would be made to avoid civilians, and that their efforts would be targeted and focused on the alleged perpetrators, and I hope that precaution will minimize civilian involvement," he added.

To a question on the political situation, the Secretary-General pointed out that the UN had long been engaged in seeking a negotiated settlement by bringing the Afghans together to create a broad-based government. "We have always maintained that there is no military solution in Afghanistan and that the Afghans have to come together and form a government," he said. "We would also need the support and cooperation of the regional and neighbouring governments which have not always pulled together and have worked in opposite directions."

Asked about a US letter to the Security Council concerning possible future action, the Secretary-General said "one sentence which has caused some anxiety amongst the membership which I've also asked about was the question that they may find it necessary to go after other organizations and other States. The US has indicated however that this is not a predictor of any intention that it intends to take but basically it is a statement that they are at the early stages and keeping their options open."