UN welcomes fresh US aid for Afghanistan
"The new aid, whether in food assistance or cash, is extremely welcome. It's a very good move," said UN humanitarian office spokeswoman Stephanie Bunker of the 43 million dollars in US aid announced Thursday by Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Washington has pledged or donated 124 million dollars in aid this year to Afghans, making it by far the largest donor to the war-torn country despite its sharp political differences with the ruling Taliban militia.
It co-sponsored UN sanctions against the fundamentalist Islamic militia in January for their refusal to hand over indicted terrorist Osama bin Laden.
The sanctions have been criticised for hampering relief efforts during a humanitarian crisis caused by civil war and the worst drought in memory, but Washington insists the curbs have no humanitarian impact.
"It is certainly a welcome move by the US government," said Yusuf Hassan, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees based here in neighbouring Pakistan.
Some 800,000 Afghans have fled their homes due to drought and war since mid-2000, including around 170,000 who have arrived at makeshift refugee camps in Pakistan.
Hassan said conditions for about 80,000 people at the makeshift Jalozai camp near the northwestern Pakistani town of Peshawar were deteriorating but the local authorities were refusing to allow the refugees to be moved to proper refugee camps.
Pakistan, which already hosts some 1.2 million Afghan refugees plus an estimated two million illegal immigrants, has denied that any of the new arrivals were genuine refugees.
A senior State Department official on Thursday hit out at Islamabad for its treatment of refugees at Jalozai and its refusal to cooperate with the UNHCR.
"UNHCR has asked to be able to register the people at Jalozai so it could then determine their status and make arrangements for them to be put in a more appropriate setting," said Allen Kreczko, the acting assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration.
Krezcko said Washington would continue to press Pakistani officials on the Jalozai issue.
"It really shouldn't be called a camp, it wasn't intended to be a camp, it's not a proper location or a proper size for a camp."
The UN estimates millions Afgans could face famine this year unless massive international assistance arrives.
But even with the latest US pledge, the donor community has offered less than half of the world body's 250-million-dollar annual appeal for Afghanistan.
Copyright (c) 2001 Agence France-Presse
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