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Secretary-General to visit Islamabad, Kabul, Tehran and Vienna

Secretary-General to visit Islamabad, Kabul, Tehran and Vienna

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan will head to Islamabad, Kabul and Tehran to discuss the region’s situation before conducting an official visit to Austria later this month, his spokesman announced today.

The visit to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran would follow the Secretary-General’s trip to Tokyo, where he will attend the International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan from 21 to 22 January as part of an official visit to Japan set to run through 23 January, spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters in New York.

The Secretary-General will travel from Tokyo to Islamabad on 23 January before heading to Kabul on 25 January and then on to Teheran for a visit the following day, according to the spokesman. At the end of that tour, Mr. Annan will make an official visit to Austria, arriving on 27 January.

"In Kabul, [the Secretary-General] will be meeting with the head of the Interim Administration, Hamid Karzai, the other members of the Interim Administration and the International Security Assistance Force leaders," Mr. Eckhard said, adding that Mr. Annan would tour parts of Kabul that had been particularly damaged by the war and visit with ordinary Afghans.

Concerning the Secretary-General’s stops in Islamabad and Tehran, Mr. Eckhard recalled that the UN had long been calling on Afghanistan’s neighbours to support peace in the country. “If the neighbours, who in the past have backed various warring factions in Afghanistan, continue to do that, then their influence on the country will be divisive,” he noted. “Most critical will be Pakistan and Iran, and he’ll be urging them to work more closely together to keep the security situation in Afghanistan stable, arguing that it’s in their common interest to do so.”