Afghanistan at 'critical juncture', UN sanctions committee chairman says

31 October 2003
Ambassador Muñoz briefs journalist

The head of a United Nations committee overseeing sanctions against Al-Qaida and the Taliban, just back from a tour of the Middle East and Asia, said today that Afghanistan was at a "critical juncture" in its battle against "enormous challenges and threats."

Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz of Chile told a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York that he and the members of the UN Security Council's sanctions committee "feel that Afghanistan is at a critical juncture in terms of advancing towards normalcy and stability and facing enormous challenges and threats."

The committee is charged with overseeing an arms embargo, a travel ban, and the freezing of the assets of individuals on its consolidated list of persons associated with the two groups.

Ambassador Muñoz, who toured Afghanistan and it neighbours, plus some Arab, Asian and European capitals, said that in Kabul he had visited Afghan Government leaders, including the President Hamid Karzai, plus foreign advisers, military officers, and members of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). All had agreed, he said, that the major threats facing Afghanistan were terrorism, factionalism and drug trafficking.

"First and foremost," he said, was "terrorism on the part of the Al-Qaida remnants, particularly in the south of the country."

He said another problem was "factionalism, particularly in the north on the part of warlords who want to keep their small parcels of power, land and their small private armies, and obviously do not necessarily like the idea of a central state."

Mr. Muñoz also said the increased drug production and drug trafficking linked to Al-Qaida linked rather through the Taliban.

"There is indeed a growing alliance a between the Taliban and drug traffickers," he said. "The Taliban are getting funding by letting through the drug traffickers and are also purchasing arms in exchange for drugs."

Mr. Muñoz said "all my interlocutors agreed" that in answer to these problems, "what was needed was a stronger, a more robust, viable state, that could overcome the instability."

"You need in essence," he said, "stronger central and local institutions."

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