Afghanistan + 2 more

UN press briefing in Kabul 07 - 09 Dec 2001

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News and Press Release
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PRESS BRIEFING BY THE U.N. OFFICES IN KABUL
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of UN briefings in Kabul on 7, 8 and 9 December (excluding questions and answers session).

7 DECEMBER 2001

** Yusuf Hassan, UN Spokesperson

Some few words before introducing our guest speaker. Saturday, that's tomorrow - the World Food Programme (WFP) - will start distributing food to thousands of needy Afghans in Kabul. In a three-day registration exercise, the UN food agency found over 1.3 million people in need of aid in the capital. It is setting-up 16 distribution points to help feed the people they've identified in the city.

They expect the distribution will take 8 days. In the first two days, WFP expects to reach some 400,000 people in district 1-5 of Kabul, with a total of 3,000 metric tonnes of wheat. If you are interested in covering the distribution tomorrow, please see me or my colleague Wivina.

Our guest speaker this evening is the Assistant High Commissioner of UNHCR, Kamel Morjane. An experienced diplomat and accomplished humanitarian officer, he has served as his (Tunisia)country's Ambassador and Special Representative to the UN in Geneva and has held senior positions in the UN, as UNHCR's director for South West Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Until October, when the High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers named him to head UNHCR's global operations, Kamel was the Secretary General's Special Representative to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Without much ado, l welcome Kamel Morjane to speak to you.

**Kamel Morjane, Assistant High Commissioner

The historic Bonn Talks offer the people of Afghanistan, a new opportunity, a fresh start.

The rapidly changing situation provides an opportunity for the return of thousands of Afghan refugees. Following the improved access into some parts of the country, UNHCR, together with other UN agencies, is rapidly expanding its activities in support of the large population of internally displaced Afghans. As you probably know, Afghanistan is the world's largest refugee producing country in the world. Multiple crises, internal strife, drought, hunger and poverty have uprooted millions of people.

Four million Afghans are refugees in neighbouring countries of Pakistan and Iran, thousand others are scattered in 70 countries around the world. UNHCR key objectives to stabilise the population in Afghanistan, continue assisting those who are being forced to flee the country and aid the repatriation of Afghans who want to return home.

UNHCR has begun an assistance programme that would cover up to half a million internally displaced Afghans. In the neighboring countries, it would help up to 380-thousand new refugees. It will at the same time prepare the ground of the return of thousands of Afghans.

Although it is too early to contemplate large-scale return of Afghan refugees, some return movements have already started in a spontaneous manner from Pakistan and Iran.

Already 24,000 Afghans have returned from Iran since the beginning of October. An increasing number of people are also returning from Pakistan. If the security situation improves, significant numbers of Afghans would return home towards the end of the winter season - in March or April.

As l informed the new Minister for the Return of Refugees and Internally Displacement today, UNHCR will play a key role in the repatriation of those returning home as well as assist them in the process of reintegration. Even if only 25% of the current Afghan refugee population were to return - that would translate into one million - a huge number by any standard.

8 DECEMBER 2001

** Yusuf Hassan, UN spokesperson

Let me start with some news on flights. The key point has to do with anyone who has originally booked on flights on 16, 17, 18 December. As you know, on those days - in and out of Kabul - the flights have been cancelled. The more hopeful news is that those of you who were booked on those are being given priority on flights leaving 14th and 19th. Please be advised: you must go by UN flight operations and speak directly with Bengt Messing, to organise this.

Some news on the WFP food distribution, done today in 16 areas of the city. Much of the close to 15-ghundred metric tonnes of wheat that was to be distributed - was indeed handed out to the thousands of families eager to get it. There were about 1,300 metric tonnes of wheat handed out today. Overall, most of the food got to those who were destined to receive it.

However, in certain areas, distribution had to be suspended on and off, so that crowds that gathered could either be dispersed, or new arrangements made, to make the distribution go smoothly as possible.

This was the first day of an 8-day effort, to distribute food throughout much of Kabul. By 14 December, we expect close to 1.3 million people will have much needed food, to get them through the next month.

9 DECEMBER 2001

** Wivina Belmonte, UN Spokesperson

Again a few important calendar plus housekeeping notes for you.

Please note that the Special Representative for the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, arrived in Rome today, to meet the former ing His Majesty Mohammed Zaher. Mr. Brahimi leaves Rome Monday for Kabul, and is expected here on Tuesday where he will hold talks with political leaders on the transfer of power which, according to the Bonn Agreement, is due to take place on 22 December 2001. Mr. Brahimi is expected back in New York at the end of next week. He will return to Kabul on 22 December for the transfer of power.

Tomorrow, we have invited 3 of 12 people who have been in Kabul for the past few days, working with UNSMA, the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan, to talk about their work and their meetings in Kabul.

These are Afghan nationals, who have been living in Peshawar, and have returned to talk about how to rebuild their country. The three people include; Mrs. Shallah Mahaindost, formerly Director of an Employment Agency in Northern Zone (Mazar), Mr. Abdurrazzaq Baig, formerly a member of the police academy and Faculty of law and Mr. Mohammed Ashraf Rasuli, who was a Supreme Court Judge, and a constitutional committee member.

They will be here to talk about who they've met, what they discussed and about the process of rebuilding Afghanistan. They will be speaking through interpreters.

Another note about the food distribution going on in various parts of Kabul. As you know, this is the largest distribution of aid anywhere in the country, reaching a total of 1.3 million people in Kabul. The distribution was suspended for the day today, but will resume tomorrow.

The World Food Programme will resume handing out the 50-kilo bags of wheat at various sites through the city tomorrow. We will reach approximately 200,000 people tomorrow, with about 15-hundred metric tonnes of food.

The distribution was suspended today, so as to come up with a number of new locations for the distribution. Yesterday, at a few of the 16 locations, more people showed up than expected. To avoid overcrowding, more distribution sites were chosen today - and everything will start up again tomorrow.

Finally, I'd like to introduce you to Mr. Martin Barber, as we mentioned to you yesterday he is the head of a 7-member technical team with the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations. He will restrict his comments to the technical aspects he is concentrating on, while here in Kabul.

(There is no transcript of Mr. Barber's statement)