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Afghanistan: UN envoy says unity and security needed in coming year

Afghanistan: UN envoy says unity and security needed in coming year

As Afghanistan prepared to mark its new year, the top United Nations official in the country said today that national unity and security would be critical in reconstruction efforts.

“This should be the year when all the people of Afghanistan everywhere feel that their government is the government of all of Afghanistan and that everybody is comfortable living anywhere in the country,” Lakhdar Brahimi, the Special Representative of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said during a year-end press conference to express his best wishes to the people of Afghanistan on the occasion of Nawruz, which begins tomorrow.

Mr. Brahimi said there were a lot of internally displaced people who are afraid to go back to their villages because of the tensions between the people of Afghanistan. He also noted that the security sector had very serious problems and was a source of dissatisfaction in the country.

“I think that Afghanistan needs national reconciliation and national unity. There is still too much division,” he said. “And the challenge for the Afghans and their friends, including the United Nations, is to create a truly genuinely national army and national police. Work is being done, the beginning is promising.”

Asked what the differences between Nawruz last year and this year, Mr. Brahimi said, “Work has started for the preparation of the constitution [and] we have every confidence that it will be submitted to a Loya Jirga before Ramadan. Work is also starting for the preparations of the elections next year. The Judicial Commission is also working.”

The Special Representative, however, stressed that it was up to the Afghan leadership “to set the programme for the Government of Afghanistan for the coming year. And our role, as the United Nations, as the international community, is to support the programme and the agenda of the Afghan Government. We do not have a separate, different agenda.”

On the role of women in the elections next year, Mr. Brahimi said when the national commission starts working, one of the first things it will do is recruit about 1,800 people to go around the country registering voters, with perhaps half of them women so that they go and register female voters.

Asked about the war in Iraq, Mr. Brahimi said it was a sad day for the United Nations and added, “I think that the overwhelming majority of people all over the world think that this war is not justified and that the so-called disarmament could have been achieved by peaceful means.”

He voiced the worry that war in Iraq may take attention and resources away from Afghanistan, but added that officials from the United States have repeatedly hold him that “no matter what happens in Iraq, they will not lose interest and they will continue to support Afghanistan.”