UN: Iran-Afghan Conflict Defused
By Kathy Gannon
Associated Press Writer
Monday, October 19, 1998; 7:25 a.m. EDT
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- The threat of confrontation between Iran and Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia has passed, a U.N. special envoy said today after more than a week of shuttle diplomacy to defuse the crisis.
``God willing, that is behind us,'' Lakhdar Brahimi said from Islamabad, Pakistan today.
Brahimi's meetings with Taliban leaders resulted in the release of 26 Iranian prisoners and a promise to hold face-to-face talks with Iran.
He said the Taliban also promised to cooperate with a joint United Nations-Organization of Islamic Conference commission to investigate reports of massive human rights abuse by both sides in the conflict.
Iran had sent more than 200,000 troops to its border with Afghanistan after Taliban troops killed eight Iranian diplomats and a journalist in northern Afghanistan in August.
An estimated 50 foreign U.N. workers were pulled out of Afghanistan in August after an Italian U.N. worker was shot and killed in Kabul, the capital, in apparent retaliation for the U.S. missile attack on suspected terrorist camps in eastern Afghanistan.
``We want to make sure our staff is safe to go back,'' said Sarah Russell, a U.N. spokesperson in Pakistan.
For the U.N. that means both guarantees and answers to questions surrounding the killings of three U.N. workers -- Carmine Calo, an Italian military advisor for the U.N.'s special mission, Mohammed Hashim Bahsaryar, 55, of the World Food Program and Mohammed Naseer Habibi, 49, of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
The Taliban rule 90 percent of Afghanistan, while their opponents hold 10 percent.
Afghanistan's opposition alliance repulsed an attack by the Taliban in northern Afghanistan's Baghlan province today, an opposition spokesman said.
There were no casualty figures.
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