U.N. refuses sanction exemption for Afghan airline
By Anthony Goodman
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 28 (Reuters) - A U.N. committee that monitors sanctions against Afghanistan rejected on Friday a request for a total exemption on behalf of Ariana Afghan Airlines, the main target of the curbs, a committee source said.
The sanctions, adopted unanimously by the Security Council last October, went into force on Nov. 14 against Afghanistan's Taleban rulers for failing to surrender Saudi-born dissident Osama bin Laden for trial on charges of plotting the August 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
At least 225 people were killed and more than 4,000 wounded in the nearly simultaneous explosions. Most of the victims were in Nairobi.
Ariana was the prime target of the sanctions, which require countries to ban flights by planes owned, operated or leased by the Taleban, and to freeze bank accounts and property owned or controlled by the strict Islamist group.
The Taleban control about 90 percent of Afghanistan but are recognised only by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
In a letter last month to the sanctions committee, which held its first meeting on Friday, the Taleban Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism requested an exemption for ``the operation of Ariana Afghan Airlines for the benefit of the public travelers and ordinary people of Afghanistan.''
It said Afghanistan was a landlocked country heavily dependent on air transportation, including for the import of humanitarian supplies and to fly pilgrims on the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
This request for a blanket exemption from sanctions was rejected, the committee source said.
But a separate request for permission for the airline to fly 12,000 Afghan pilgrims from Kabul and Kandahar to Saudi Arabia and back was being considered sympathetically, the source said.
The operation would be in two phases, from Feb. 9 to March 9 and from April 5 to May 5, with 90 round-trip flights in each phase.
The U.N. sanctions resolution provides for exemptions on a case by case basis for humanitarian and religious purposes.
The Taleban said the financial expenses of the proposed pilgrimage flights would be paid from unfrozen funds available inside Afghanistan.
The flights would probably be approved once assurances were obtained that they could be monitored to ensure no violations of the sanctions occurred, the committee source said.
Cash crisis threatens UN agriculture program in Afghanistan
January 28, 2000
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) -- A cash crisis is threatening a crucial agriculture and livestock program in Afghanistan run by the United Nations, U.N. officials said on Friday.
"We are in a critical situation. The funding runs out in June, 2000," Terence Barker, manager of a livestock program run by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told a news conference.
"Without funding we cannot continue," he said of a $10 million program without which war-torn Afghanistan may see a serious slowdown in crop production and livestock rearing.
Knut Ostby, senior deputy resident representative for the U.N. Development Program for Afghanistan, said funds were trickling in from donor countries but the $10 million needed to run the scheme each year was not yet in sight.
Barker said donor countries must realize that if the U.N. projects, which aim to boost agriculture and cattle and sheep herds in Afghanistan, were closed down, U.N. humanitarian aid would have to be increased to compensate for the food losses.
Afghanistan is already heavily dependent on U.N. and other non-government organizations for basic needs.
"It means the food security situation will deteriorate, making need for more humanitarian relief (funding)," he said.
Funding shortages have affected several other United Nations programs in Afghanistan but U.N. officials said the FAO was providing crucial help in maintaining and improving agriculture, badly affected by 20 years of war.
They say closure of the projects -- which will become imminent if funding is not received by June -- would mean a worsening food situation in an already poor country which heavily relies on wheat imports from Pakistan.
The operations include raising livestock numbers, vaccination of animals, providing veterinary help, producing wheat seedstock, encouraging commercial production of fruits and dozens of other areas.
"Afghanistan is known as a place full of problems," said Ostby. "But we would like to discuss the opportunities that are being missed," he said, referring to the potential of agriculture sector to meet and exceed all Afghan food needs.
Kazakh leader says concerned over Chechen threat
ALMATY, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has voiced concerns that the Central