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Eventual probe of Afghanistan's reported mass graves must protect witnesses - UN envoy

Eventual probe of Afghanistan's reported mass graves must protect witnesses - UN envoy

Lakhdar Brahimi
Any probe of alleged mass grave sites in northern Afghanistan must protect potential witnesses, the senior United Nations envoy to the country said today, pledging that the world body would follow-up on the issue.

"A very important point to remember here is that I think we have a responsibility, certainly to find out what has happened, but I am sure you will agree that our responsibility to the living has to have precedence as far as we, the United Nations, are concerned and we cannot take a risk of putting anyone's life in danger," Lakhdar Brahimi, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative for Afghanistan, said in answer to questions posed at a press conference in Kabul.

The envoy also noted that the Afghan Government has said it would like to investigate, but he added, "I don't think they have the capacity to do so."

Pending an investigation, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) was working to protect the sites through repeated visits, he noted.

"We will definitely do our utmost to follow this up," he said. "We certainly owe it to the people who have been killed, to their relatives and to the principles we believe in."

Sharing his impressions of President Hamid Karzai's administration, Mr. Brahimi said while it is struggling, "the new younger breed that has joined the Government are really working extremely hard." He also warned against complacency towards Afghanistan, saying, "I don't think peace is firmly established."

Asked about the country's stability, the envoy said he was encouraged by the work being done to prepare for a national police force and army, and voiced confidence that within two years, "we are going to have enough soldiers and enough policemen for the country to stand on its own two feet."