UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, in a report released on Thursday, said the commitment to peace talks between the Taliban Islamic Movement and the United Front (also known as the Northern Alliance) was "only a first step in what will be, at best, a long and difficult journey towards peace". Annan said the Afghan conflict was being fuelled by the involvement of "external players of various sorts" on both sides, a UN press release stated. He said it was "deeply distressing that a significant number of non-Afghan personnel, largely from Pakistani madrassahs [Islamic schools], are not only taking active part in the fighting, most, if not all, on the side of the Taliban" but that "there also appears to be outside involvement in the planning and logistical support of their military operations."
The UN Secretary-General also welcomed the Taliban's recent decree banning opium poppy cultivation in territory under its control, but said this was offset by the group's ban on the employment of Afghan women who continued to face serious human rights abuses. Annan said he deplored the Taliban's failure to turn over indicted terrorist Osama bin Laden as demanded by the Security Council. "The Taliban authorities have made it clear that they consider Mr bin Laden as their guest and that the customs of Pashtoon hospitality do not allow for his expulsion from the country," he said. Meanwhile, Annan's personal representative for Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell, on Thursday ended a two-day visit to India where he conferred with high-level officials on the situation in Afghanistan. This followed a similar trip to Russia earlier this week.
PAKISTAN: IMF approves $596 million credit
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday announced a credit of $596 million credit for Pakistan. The programme aims to move Pakistan on to a high and sustainable growth path by strengthening the balance of payment position, rebuilding official reserves, and reducing public sector indebtedness," IMF managing director Horst Kohler stated.
This is the first time since May 1999 that Pakistan has qualified for the multilateral financing to stabilise its strained balance of payments position. A stabilisation programme was badly needed to stem pressures on the rupee and bring official reserves to more comfortable levels, according to economic sources. The programme is to include comprehensive fiscal reforms, with specific initiatives to strengthen tax administration and enforcement, and taxpayer registration, the IMF stated on Wednesday. The approval of the IMF credit line will allow Pakistan to draw down $192 million immediately, with the remainder to be released in three payments by the end of June 2001 - contingent on the government fulfilling certain conditionalities.
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