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UN 'not directly contacted' about mediating surrender in Kunduz, Afghanistan

UN 'not directly contacted' about mediating surrender in Kunduz, Afghanistan

The United Nations has not been directly contacted about mediating a surrender in Kunduz, Afghanistan, a spokesman for the world body said today.

"The Secretary-General, [who] is very concerned about the situation, has been in touch with the coalition forces, which have the capacity to deal with the situation," spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva told reporters in New York.

The spokesman noted that the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, had discussed the matter with the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC), "which said it was in touch with its people on the ground, and is in touch on this issue with [Deputy Special Representative Francesc] Vendrell, who is raising this question with his interlocutors in Kabul."

Mr. Vendrell is in the Afghan capital conducting a series of meetings aimed at discussing a plan for Afghanistan's future presented by Mr. Brahimi to the Security Council last week.

Among other contacts, the Deputy Special Representative held meetings on Sunday with President Burhanuddin Rabbani, leader of the United Front, at the former residence of the Taliban Minister of Interior. Mr. Vendrell had previously met several times with President Rabbani, most recently some 10 days earlier in Dushanbe.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General, who was in Canada over the weekend meeting with the country's leaders as well as international financial officials, repeated his call for a broad-based government in Afghanistan, warning of the complications that would ensue if a single faction sought to assert power.

"We are trying to get all the Afghan parties together," the Secretary-General told reporters in Ottawa following a meeting with Prime Minister Jean Chrétien on Saturday. "Obviously we hope all Afghan parties and leaders will understand the need to form a broad-based government and set up an administration in Kabul that will be acceptable by all."

"If they do not do that and one group tries to control power and assert itself, it is going to create problems down the line," said Mr. Annan, who made his comments in response to a question on the role of President Rabbani. "I would hope that Mr. Rabbani also is aware of this since he knows intimately the history of his own country," the Secretary-General added.

"We will be pressing ahead trying to get them to discuss a broad-based government in which power will be shared by all the groups and I would hope everyone will cooperate," he said.

Mr. Annan was in Ottawa to address finance and development committees of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) during a private dinner. In remarks to those attending, the Secretary-General stressed the need to project a message of hope following the 11 September attacks. He also underscored the importance of the International Conference on Financing for Development, to be held in Monterrey, Mexico, next March.