UN official in Afghanistan blasts sanctions as unfair
By RODOLFO A. WINDHAUSEN
UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- The chief U.N. envoy to Afghanistan has
strongly criticized sanctions imposed by the Security Council over the
ruling Taliban regime's refusal to return reputed international terrorist
Osama bin Laden, saying the Afghan population cannot cope with "further
In a report issued Monday, the office of U.N. humanitarian coordinator
Erick de Mul in the Afghan capital, Kabul, wrote that "these sanctions came
on top of a devastating drought and large-scale population displacement." It
also warned that "the coping capacity of the civilian population has been
severely weakened as a result of the war and the erosion of many traditional
Last fall the U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions against Afghanistan
in an attempt to force the fundamentalist Taliban to hand over bin Laden,
who is accused of masterminding several attacks around the world, among them
the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
"The existing sanctions have both a direct and indirect impact on the
population," the report said. The most significant direct hit, according to
De Mul, has been on Afghanistan's official Ariana Airlines, whose loss of
air routes has prevented export shipments of fresh fruit, leaving it to be
sold only to the domestic market. That means the produce fetches a lower
price than it would in foreign markets, further reducing revenue to
Afghanistan." Ariana's reduced income and resulting loss in profitability
might also have an impact on the safety of domestic operations."
"The sanctions have magnified the extent to which ordinary Afghans feel
isolated and victimized," said the report, which is the result of a
two-month investigation that involved research and interviews with a variety
of Afghan citizens.
"There is a widespread perception, and resultant bitterness, that the
United Nations Security Council has set out to harm an innocent population
and not the authorities with which it has a quarrel," the report added. "The
majority of the population struggles to survive at near subsistence levels
and many cannot meet their food and non-food needs."
It noted that immediately after the imposition of the sanctions, there
were demonstrations against the United Nations in many Afghan cities, and
several U.N. agencies were forced to evacuate personnel from the country.
The report adds that "an overwhelming majority of those interviewed
indicated that an arms embargo would command widespread support and moral
authority," and that there is consensus "on the need for the U.N. to upgrade
and intensify its political engagement and peace-making efforts to end the
war" in Afghanistan.
In a report to the Security Council last March, U.N. Secretary-General,
Kofi Annan said "the combination of a poor harvest, the tightening of border
controls and a harsh winter with little precipitation has exacerbated food
insecurity for the majority of Afghans."
"Sporadic fighting in recent months has taken a toll on civilians already
weakened by decades of warfare and grinding poverty that, in part, can be
attributed to a long history of underdevelopment," Annan told the council.
The document from De Mul's office, mentioned only in passing at a daily
briefing by Annan's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, is similar to a previous report
from the humanitarian coordinator's office in Iraq. It criticized the harsh
economic, military and trade sanctions that the Security Council imposed on
Iraq in 1990 after Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait; the criticism led
to the resignation of the U.N. coordinator in Baghdad earlier this year.
The issue of sanctions to Iraq has bitterly divided the 15-member Security
Council. Of the five veto-wielding permanent members, the United States and
Britain favor a strict application of the punishment, while France, Russia
and China reportedly lean toward a more flexible approach and eventual
easing of the sanctions.
Diplomatic sources told United Press International that De Mul's report
could rekindle the debate in the Security Council over the effectiveness of
harsh sanctions against so-called "rogue" governments. The United States had
exerted pressure in the council to pass the sanctions when the Taliban
regime refused to hand over bin Laden, on grounds that he had been given
refuge in Afghanistan by a previous government, the sources said.
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