Afghan drought spreading
The drought is worst in southern Afghanistan
By Kate Clark in Kabul - BBC
The United Nations says the drought in Afghanistan is more widespread than previously thought.
Northern and central areas have also been gravely affected, with many farmers expecting total crop failure.
It says three to four million people are severely affected, about a fifth of the population.
The devastating effects of the drought in southern Afghanistan have been clear for some weeks.
But it is only now that surveys are revealing how many farmers in the rest of the country are also facing ruin.
The UN says those farmers in the north who have no access to irrigation are the most seriously affected.
But many people in the central highlands, already one of the poorest areas in Afghanistan, are facing their third poor or non-existent harvest in a row.
Even the north-east, which has received plentiful winter rains, is expecting widespread crop failure.
Its problems started in April, when low rainfall and soaring temperatures meant crops burned in the fields.
Many farmers are simply letting their animals graze on the failing crops.
People with access to irrigation are faring better, but even their yields are down.
The north usually provides most of Afghanistan's home-grown wheat, crop failure there will have a knock-on effect on the rest of the country's capacity to feed itself.
The UN estimates Afghanistan could be short of two million tonnes of wheat in the year starting in July.
That is far higher than Afghanistan has ever experienced before.
News on Tuesday that neighbouring Pakistan has produced a bumper wheat crop, and intends to export 600,000 to Afghanistan, will come as some relief.
But incomes are greatly reduced by the drought and it is not clear how many Afghans will be able to afford this imported flour.
US says it has given Taliban evidence on bin Laden terrorist activity
WASHINGTON, May 30 (AFP) - The United States said Tuesday it had provided Afghanistan's ruling Taliban with evidence of terrorist activity by its well-known guest Osama bin Laden as part of an effort to convince the militia to expel the Saudi millionaire from its territory.
State Department spokesman Philip Reeker told reporters that the unspecified evidence had been turned over to Taliban deputy foreign minister Abdul Jalil Akhond by US Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering at a weekend meeting in Islamabad.
"He met with the Taliban, reviewing our case against Osama bin Laden and provided further evidence to them as part of his urging that they comply with the UN resolution," Reeker said.
He referred to UN Security Council resolution 1267 that requires the Taliban to hand over bin Laden to a country where he will be arrested and prosecuted for allegedly masterminding the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Until that resolution is complied with, the Taliban are subject to UN sanctions backed wholeheartedly by the United States which has offered a five-million-dollar reward for information leading to bin Laden's arrest.
In his comments, Reeker confirmed the substance of remarks made Sunday in Kabul by Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawakel in which he said Pickering had demanded bin Laden's handover or expulsion.
"In these talks the United States reiterated once again that Osama bin Laden should be handed over," Mutawakel told reporters.
The Taliban maintains the United States has not provided any evidence against the wealthy Saudi dissident and has refused to hand him over despite the the US pressure and the aviation and financial sanctions.
Reeker said the Pickering-Akhond meeting had come about "with the assistance and at the suggestion of the government of Pakistan" while Pickering was on a South Asian tour.
Pickering, Washington's third-highest ranking diplomat, "also raised the issue of the Afghan peace process, human rights and some of our concerns about the expanding production of narcotics."
US Envoy Met Top Taliban Official, Sought Bin Laden
Washington, May 30 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering met in Pakistan with a top official of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban party, urging Kabul's handover of alleged terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
Pickering, in his meeting on Saturday with Deputy Foreign Minister Abdul Jallil, ``reviewed the U.S. case and provided further evidence'' against bin Laden, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said. U.S. officials accuse bin Laden, a Saudi citizen, of involvement in attacks that include the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Pickering met with Jallil and other Taliban officials in Islamabad ``with the assistance and at the suggestion of the government of Pakistan'' as part of a wider visit to South Asia that has included stops in India and Sri Lanka, Reeker said.
Taliban leaders are trying to win international recognition for their government, which controls the capital and as much as 90 percent of Afghanistan. In November, the United Nations froze the overseas assets of the Taliban militia and barred Afghanistan's airline from international flights for the Taliban's refusal to extradite bin Laden.
The Taliban government, which emerged from years of civil war in Afghanistan, has come under fire in the U.S. and other Western countries for its harsh interpretation of Islamic law that includes bans against women in schools and workplaces.
Bin Laden's operations in Afghanistan were responsible for attacks from Kosovo to Jordan to Russia's Chechnya, the State Department said this month in its annual report on worldwide terrorism.
President Bill Clinton said bin Laden also plotted late last year to place bombs at New Year's Eve celebrations in the U.S.
The Taliban government has kept tens of thousands of women prisoners in their homes, taken prisoner several thousand civilians and has ``deliberately and systematically'' killed thousands of them, the human rights group Amnesty International said in its latest annual worldwide survey.
Amnesty also is warning that fighting could escalate in Afghanistan if Moscow, which thinks the Taliban and bin Laden are aiding Chechen rebels, carries out recent threats by Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev to bomb Afghanistan.
Reeker said he couldn't confirm a Pakistani report that Taliban representatives, during their meeting with Pickering in Islamabad, asked for UN recognition of their government as a price for handing over bin Laden. Reeker also said he couldn't describe the evidence against bin Laden that Pickering presented to the Taliban officials.
Pakistan takes up air strikes threat with Moscow
By our correspondent - The News International (Pakistan)
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday raised with Moscow the issue of Russian threat to launch air strikes against Afghanistan. An official for the Russian president's secretariat warned last week that the Russian forces could launch preventive strikes against suspected military training camps in Afghanistan, if there is a serious threat to Russia's national interests.
Pakistani diplomats based in Moscow raised the issue with the concerned officials of the Russian government. The diplomats were told that the said official was not authorised to make such a statement on behalf of the Russian government. Officials said Pakistan believed that any military strike against Afghanistan would destabilise the region.
Pakistan and Russia had discussed the issue of 'international terrorism' five months ago, when a Pakistani delegation visited Moscow to hold talks with the Russian officials. Some experts see the Russian threat as a trial balloon to see how the world would react to such an extreme measure. The others believe that Russia wanted to consolidate its image as a tough opponent of Islamic extremism in the Central Asian Republics especially Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which see 'Islamic extremism' spreading from Afghanistan.
Uzbekistan and Tajikistan border Afghanistan and the governments in both countries face opposition from the local militant Islamic forces. There are reports of these forces getting support from Taliban and sometimes getting sanctuaries inside Afghanistan. The Russian warning was the second such threat during the last three months. The first threat came in the middle of March, from the person who was apparently not authorised to issue such a warning.
Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov warned of air strikes against alleged terrorist training camps in Afghanistan after the conclusion of a meeting of security chiefs from six former Soviet states -- Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. Russia has been preparing ground for launching a concerted effort with the Central Asian States against the threat of 'Islamic extremism' that in their perception stems from Afghanistan.
Apparently, the Russian endeavours to make a joint front against the threat of 'Islamic extremism' gained momentum after the Taliban recognised Chechnya as a separate country and a senior Taliban official even boasted of extending material support to Chechens, if requested. The threat of 'international terrorism' from Afghanistan was first discussed at a meeting of Shangai Five. In that meeting, the defence ministers of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan decided to co-ordinate their efforts to suppress terrorism.
Later, the presidents of four Central Asian states identified Afghanistan as the main source of 'Islamic extremism' reaching Central Asia in their meeting at Tashkent in April. In this meeting, the presidents of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan decided to coordinate efforts of their intelligence and security agencies against 'Islamic extremism'.
Any military action by Russia in Afghanistan is likely to adversely affect the OIC-led joint effort to bring peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan and Iran are leading the peace effort under the umbrella of the OIC and recently Afghan warring factions held talks in Jeddah. The OIC led peace effort failed to convince the two sides to agree on a ceasefire. The fighting has already broken out in the northern part of Afghanistan and there are reports that both the factions are preparing for launching major offensives.
Taliban say Russian generals aiding Afghan opposition
The Taliban denies it was providing military help to Chechen rebels
May 31, 2000
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Russian generals have reportedly visited opposition-controlled territory in Afghanistan, promising weapons and strategic planning advice to the country's ousted government in its fight against militant Islamists, a Taliban-run newspaper reported on Monday.
The Daily Hewad did not say when exactly the 16 generals made their trip. According to the report, they traveled to opposition bases in northern Afghanistan and met with former defense minister Ahmed Shah Massood and ousted president Burhanuddin Rabbani.
There was no independent confirmation of the meeting or comment from opposition soldiers.
The report follows threats of air strikes from Russia, which has accused the Taliban of aiding Chechen rebels in their efforts to break away from Russia.
On Sunday, Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil denied they were providing military help to Chechen rebels. The Taliban have said air strikes against Afghanistan would not go unanswered.
The Taliban are sympathetic to the Chechen rebel uprising, have recognized an independent Chechnya and allowed Chechen rebels to open an embassy in Kabul.
'No cut in US aid to Afghanistan' - BR
ISLAMABAD (May 31) : Chairperson of the US Department for International Calamity and Emergency Aid, Elizabeth Kilekashwili has said that there had been no decrease in US aid to Afghanistan following UN sanctions.
Talking to Voice of America she said humanitarian aid was continuing in accordance with the needs and requirements of the people of Afghanistan. In fact there has been increase in the US aid to Afghan people following the imposition of curbs on Taleban, she maintained.
She said, the United States has neither adopted new policy with regard to aid to the Afghans nor has taken any decision since the imposition of sanctions.
The issue of curtailing or limiting the aid was not discussed during debate on sanctions, she added.
She said the US now providing aid to the drought affected areas in Afghanistan.
She said that the United Nations would very soon issue a report on drought situation in Afghanistan and projects would be suggested and launched to remove the problems there in the light of the UN report.--APP
Taliban take steps to ease return of Afghan refugees
PESHAWAR, May 30 (Frontier Post) - The ruling Taliban in Afghanistan have said that they are trying their best to solve the problems of hundreds of Afghan refuges returning home from Pakistan and Iran every month. “We are exerting every effort to clear up all the problems of the repatriates,” Maulvi Abdul Ghafoor, the attache for refugee affairs in the Afghanistan Embassy in Islamabad said in an interview. “To eliminate the problems of the refugees, a tripartite commission made up of envoys of the Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United Nations has started working some time ago,” the Afghan diplomat said. Ghafoor added that the commission has had several meetings in Kabul and Islamabad and has taken the necessary decisions on relevant issues. “It has been decided that 100,000 refugees will return voluntarily to Afghanistan in the year 2000 and that nobody has the right to force them to return,” he said.
He added that it had also been decided that the United Nations would help Afghanistan in the returning and rehabilitate of the refugees to their home country. “One of the major difficulties that the returning refugees had been facing was that their vehicles were being searched by security forces everywhere in the border areas,” Maulvi Ghafoor said. “However, it has now been decided that the repatriates would be checked in one special place only instead of separate places,” he added. Maulvi Ghafoor said that in order to ensure that the problems of the returning refugees are solved, the Taliban would maintain close contacts with the people. “For this purpose, a post of attaché for the refugees has been opened in the Afghanistan Embassy in Islamabad,” he said, adding that we are trying to institute a similar post in Peshawar as well.
Tajik president urges international efforts on Afghanistan
DUSHANBE, May 30 (Itar-Tass) - A meeting of Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov with OSCE Chairperson, Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner took place in Dushanbe on Tuesday, presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov has told Itar-Tass.
The meeting was also attended by OSCE Secretary-General Jan Kubis. Tajikistan hopes that "the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will use its influence and potential to encourage the world's leading countries, primarily Russia and the United States, to face the Afghan problem," the president said.
"The unstable and tense situation in Afghanistan endangers the national security of Central Asian republics and OSCE member- countries," he noted.
The delegation will meet the parliament leaders and Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov before leaving Dushanbe for Bishkek on Tuesday evening.
Ambassador of Islamic Government of Afghanistan Says Iran is Curbing Inflow of Drug to Europe
Bishkek, May 30, IRNA - Hikmat, Ambassador of the Islamic Government (in exile) of Afghanistan to Tajikistan here Tuesday praised Iran's fight against drug trafficking despite its having suffered heavy losses in that enterprise.
He said Iran's campaign against drug smugglers prevents thousands of tons of drugs entering Turkey, and eventually Europe. He said security police, drug fighters and border guards at the Commonwealth of Independent States are not very efficient in their curbing of drug trafficking which, he said, explains why drug from Afghanistan continuously flows into CIS states. Hikmat said the Taliban in Afghanistan support the culture of narcotic herbs in that country as their main lifeblood, and observed that the bulk of opium poppies in that country are grown in its southern regions which are under the full control of the Taliban.
Afghanistan -- Russian warning of air strike evokes memories of massive human rights violations
MAY 30, 2000, M2 Communications - PUBLIC STATEMENT
Amnesty International is concerned there will be a further escalation of war in Afghanistan resulting in further human rights violations following a recent warning from Russia's Defence Minister and other senior officials that Russia will resort to aerial bombing of Aghanistan to crush suspected Chechen armed opposition training camps.
The warning evokes memories of massive human rights violations during the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989 which resulted in the deaths of thousands of defenceless women, men and children and an exodus of one fifth of the population. Russia's aerial bombing of Chechnya, which included the targeting of civilian convoys marked with white flags, demonstrates a continuing disregard for civilian life.
Countries in the region and elsewhere which reportedly have close ties to the Afghan warring factions are already effectively fuelling the human rights catastrophe there. The Taleban are believed to have the backing of the Pakistani government while Iran and Russia are believed to be supporting the anti-Taleban factions. These countries have denied sending weapons to Afghanistan but it is now common knowledge that without their backing, Afghan warring factions could not have sustained their military operations for such a long time.
Amnesty International is also concerned that the Russian threats might give further excuses to some of the countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States to engage in human rights violations under the pretext of national security. Uzbekistan for instance has used fear of so-called religious extremism to clamp down on the non-violent opposition - secular as well as religious. The recent Taleban statement that they would hold their Central Asian neighbours responsible for any air strike against their positions in Afghanistan could be used by Uzbekistan as an excuse to intensify persecution of the banned Islamic opposition.
While there are differing views on whether the Russian threat would ever materialise - and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has denied any plans to carry out such strikes - the mere fact that the threats have been made is cause for alarm in view of their human rights implications.
Amnesty International is urging the Russian authorities to refrain from any military activity that could result - as has done in the past - in the indiscriminate killing of non-combatants and other human rights violations.
Furthermore, such statements by Russian authorities should be a warning to the international community that Russian military action of the type which was carried out in Chechnya and which resulted in massive human rights violations there could be repeated elsewhere. It is therefore imperative that the international community -- members of the United Nations and the Council of Europe -- remind the Russian authorities of their responsibilities not to engage in any military activity that would cause human rights violations.
Amnesty International, International Secretariat, 1 Easton Street, WC1X 8DJ, London, United Kingdom
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