Afghanistan: Khost highway continues to be blocked

The Khost-Gardayz highway, which has been blocked by the Zadran tribe since the weekend of 22-23 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February 2003), remained blocked as newly appointed Afghan Deputy Defense Minister General Gul Zarak Zadran arrived in the region on 2 March, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on 2 March. Haji Mohammad Ali, a leader of the Zadran tribe, said the authorities in Khost have seized 35 vehicles belonging to them and have detained the drivers, adding that the participants in the blockade have "no links with Pacha Khan Zadran," AIP reported. Pacha Khan Zadran was alleged to have initiated the blockade. Mohammad Ali said the blockade will continue until all of the seized vehicles are released, authorities promise not to repeat such actions, and all checkpoints on the highway are removed, AIP reported. Mohammad Ali said he has informed General Gul Zarak Zadran of these demands. The government authorities and Pacha Khan Zadran, a major Zadran tribal leader, have been in a long-running dispute that culminated in his dismissal as the governor of Paktiya Province (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"18 November and 19 December 2002). AT

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers on 2 March told Deputy Defense Minister and Junbish-e Melli party head General Abdul Rashid Dostum and his rival General Mohammad Ata, who represents the Jamiat-e Islami party in northern Afghanistan, that UN "assistance to returnees will stop" if the two groups do not stop fighting and find ways to peacefully resolve their issues, Radio Afghanistan reported. Lubbers met with Dostum and Mohammad Ata to discuss the expected return in the next year of 1.5 million Afghan refugees from Iran, Pakistan, and Central Asian states, adding that "most of the returnees will settle in the country's northern region," Radio Afghanistan reported. The meeting was held "just a week after clashes took place between the officials of these two commanders in Faryab Province, in which a few people were killed," the report added (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 26 February 2003). AT


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