UN could get expanded mandate in Afghanistan, Secretary-General says

UN could get expanded mandate in Afghanistan, Secretary-General says

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said the United Nations, which is currently providing humanitarian aid to Afghanistan while promoting a political settlement, could in the future have a greater role to play in the country.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference in New York, the Secretary-General emphasized that the people of Afghanistan must lead the effort to rebuild their nation. "We've been working with them over a long period, and I believe that as we move forward, their views and their desires must be respected, and I also believe that any regime or any arrangement which is not seen by the Afghans as home-grown and they do not accept as their own will be difficult," he said. "One cannot impose a government on the Afghan people."

He added that given the current circumstances, the process of political change in Afghanistan might be accelerated. "The people themselves may decide the time has come for a change, and I think we should be prepared to work with them and to help them through the difficult humanitarian phase, then through a transitional period if they come together and work to form a broad-based government."

Mr. Annan stressed that Afghanistan would require a great deal of international assistance in rehabilitation and reconstruction, adding that the UN would likely be part of that effort.

Given the prevailing conditions, the Secretary-General suggested the Security Council might increase the UN's role in the country. "As we move forward, the Member States will be looking critically at this, and it would not surprise me if the Council were to give us an expanded mandate for Afghanistan," he said.

In other news on the humanitarian front, despite persistent obstacles, UN relief agencies today continued their efforts to supply basic needs to the Afghan people as well as prepare for a massive influx of refugees before the onset of winter.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that security concerns in Pakistan prevented their field teams from accessing border areas to monitor possible population movements or from offering assistance to any new arrivals.

Meanwhile, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said that regardless of logistical hurdles and ongoing military operations, it continued to truck relief supplies into Afghanistan in a concerted effort to reach as many children as possible before the arrival of winter left roads impassable. UNICEF in Iran also organized a children's winter convoy, which arrived today in the western Afghan town of Herat, delivering medicine, blankets and water supplies and other survival items to a large population of displaced families.

As a follow-up to US President George W. Bush's words to American children last night, UNICEF also appealed for contributions to help Afghan youth. UNICEF said a $1 donation would bring immediate relief to the country's young people by supplying vital goods and services such as blankets, clothing and medicine.