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January 30, 2003

Asian Development Bank to help build Pakistan road from coast to Afghanistan
Wed Jan 29, 9:04 AM ET AP
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - The Asian Development Bank will grant Pakistan US$150 million for construction of a highway from the Arabian Sea to the Afghan border, a bank official said Wednesday.

Work on the project is to begin by the end of this year, with completion scheduled for late 2007, Yoshihiro Iwasaki, director of South and Central Asian projects for the Manila, Philippines-based bank, said at a news conference in Islamabad.

Pakistan will also contribute separately to the US$250 million total cost of the project, Iwasaki said.

Plans call for the highway to connect Pakistan's Gawadar port, where China is helping dredge a large deep sea shipping facility, with the border town of Chaman, 900 kilometers (560 miles) away.

Iwasaki said the highway will link up with the Afghan road network and eventually extend to Tajikistan and Turkmenistan in Central Asia. The aim is to "enhance Pakistan's relationship with Central Asia," he said.

Pakistan has long hoped to establish road links with Central Asia for overland trade, but instability in Afghanistan has been a major obstacle up to now.

Those hopes have been revived by relative peace in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban government in late 2001. In December, Pakistan signed US$3.2 billion worth of agreements with Turkmenistan to construct a pipeline to transport natural gas from the Central Asian nation through Afghanistan to the central Pakistan city of Multan. The Asian Development Bank is financing a study on the 1,464-kilometer (910-mile) pipeline.

Iwasaki said the road project would help provide security for a future pipeline.


Helicopter Fired at as U.S. Scours Afghan Mountains
Wed Jan 29, 3:25 PM ET By Saeed Ali Achakzai
SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Hundreds of U.S. and Afghan troops scoured mountain caves in southern Afghanistan (news - web sites) Wednesday, searching for rebels after a battle that suggested anti-American factions were trying to regroup.

A U.S. AH-64 helicopter came under small-arms fire, but this caused no damage or injuries, U.S. operations officer Lt. Col. Mike Shields told a news briefing at the U.S. headquarters at Bagram north of Kabul.

The U.S. military believes coalition forces killed at least 18 fighters said to be linked to renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the fighting that began Monday in the Adi Ghar mountain area about 14 miles north of Spin Boldak, a town on the border with Pakistan.

It said the enemy force was the biggest that U.S.-led troops had fought since "Operation Anaconda" last March, but coalition forces had suffered no casualties.

Shields said they had identified 27 caves in one complex, had cleared 12 and were working on clearing two more.

The 300 coalition troops searching the area had found supplies such as food, water, blankets and fuel as well as mules in the caves, and signs that wounded men had been treated there.

He said coalition forces destroyed one cave with explosives and that the Apache returned with another aircraft to the area where it had come under fire but found no enemy forces.

U.S. military spokesman Roger King said earlier there were at least 160 caves in the complex.

"Enemy casualties are being assessed as the forces sweep this mountainous area searching for more enemy forces, weapons caches and intelligence information," he said.

Khalid Pashtun, spokesman for the governor of the southern city of Kandahar, said Tuesday that Hekmatyar's men were fighting alongside Taliban and al Qaeda fighters. Hekmatyar has denied joining forces with the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The coalition operation coincides with a huge buildup of U.S. forces in the Gulf preparing for a possible attack on Iraq.

U.S. and allied warplanes pounded the cave complex with 2,000- and 500-pound bombs Monday night after a tip-off from a captured rebel. Up to 400 U.S. soldiers and Afghan allies have been searching the area since then.

King said U.S. forces were still trying to find out how many rebels were in the area after initial information had suggested there were about 80. "People were coming and going out of caves so there is the potential for more people to be there and we may still find them," he said.

HEKMATYAR SUSPECTED
In Anaconda, the biggest U.S. ground offensive of the Afghan war, about 1,500 U.S. troops tried to flush out a force of some 1,000 Taliban and al Qaeda militants from cave hide-outs in eastern Afghanistan.

U.S. and Afghan officials suspect the rebels are loyal to Hekmatyar, a former commander with the anti-Soviet mujahideen forces who has vowed to fight U.S. soldiers on Afghan soil.

King said U.S. special forces captured a rebel Monday after coming under small-arms fire near Spin Boldak. He told them of the group hiding in the mountains and said he was linked to Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami faction.

"We had other intelligence that I can't go into that also indicated involvement of his (Hekmatyar's) groups," King said. There was "no indication" that Hekmatyar, whose whereabouts remain a mystery, was in the cave complex, he said.

Saif Fazaldeen Agha, a senior government official in Spin Boldak, told Reuters that a senior Hezb-e-Islami commander called Abdul Ghani had been detained by U.S. forces.

Other people arrested in the operation had expertise in bomb making and mine laying, and an advanced communications system had been found in the cave complex, he said.

Afghan officials say the Taliban is trying to regroup in southern and eastern Afghanistan, and there have been several small-scale attacks on U.S. and government positions recently.

An Afghan security official in Spin Boldak said Afghan troops had found "secret documents" and lists of hundreds of names including those of people from two Pakistani border towns.

The U.S. military suspects hundreds of Taliban and al Qaeda supporters fled across the border into Pakistan after the fall of the hard-line Islamic regime in late 2001.

President Bush  spoke to Afghan President Hamid Karzai by telephone Tuesday to reassure him that the United States would "stay the course" in the war-torn country, where about 8,000 U.S. troops are stationed.


Afghanistan: New interior minister to prioritise security
KABUL, 29 January (IRIN) - One day after taking office, Afghanistan's newly installed Interior Minister called security his top priority. Ravaged by years of war, the country has seen a continuing spate of security incidents, which many fear could impede relief and reconstruction efforts in the future.

"My top priority is to provide security and conditions for peaceful activities," Ali Ahmad Jalali told IRIN in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Wednesday. The new minister, who completed graduate studies in the United States, noted that in order to achieve this goal, he planned to streamline the structure of interior ministry from the bottom up. "I am hopeful and cautiously optimistic," he said, adding that with the help of the Afghan people and the international community, eventually solutions to major security issues could be achieved.

Earlier, Jalali's predecessor, Taj Mohammad Wardak, who on Tuesday was appointed as an adviser on tribal matters and member of the national security commission, had pledged to control security within six months of his term or resign.

But the multi-lingual military and political analyst Jalali remained more cautious. "It is very hard to fix a time frame for a complicated situation like Afghanistan," he explained, emphasising that security could never be established without the cooperation of people. "You have to create conditions whereby the people can trust the police," he said. This remained his major challenge, he maintained.

"What I am going to do is try to create a national police force, which will be nationally oriented, ethnically balanced, professionally skilful and more disciplined," he said.

"I support the idea of extending ISAF outside Kabul," the new interior minister said, but called it and the contributions made by the international community as short term solutions to maintaining peace and security. For the Minister, a strong national army and police force was key to the country's long-term stability.


Afghanistan: Focus on the battle to keep winter roads open
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
YAKAWLANG, 29 January (IRIN) - Several hundred men with shovels will make the life of a 22-year-old Afghan shopkeeper and hundreds like him a lot easier this year. Every winter the village of Yakawlang in the central highlands of Afghanistan is cut off for several months by snow blocking passes where the road climbs to over 3,500 m.

But thanks to international initiatives, the roads in this part of the country will be cleared and remain open throughout winter for the first time in memory. "It will make such a difference - sometimes the road would be closed for three months and we could not get food or supplies until it went away," Jamshid, a shopkeeper, told IRIN in Yakawlang.

It is not uncommon to see roads blocked by snow several metres high in this region. The drive from Bamian to Yakawlang is treacherous at the best of times during the long winter, with the road covered in sheets of ice and snow. Even with chains strapped to tyres for additional grip, vehicles can often be seen sliding off the road.

But now help is at hand. Coordinated by the United Nations Joint Logistics Committee (UNJLC), the winter roads programme will see the UN and NGOs work to keep remote routes open, which is vital to the reconstruction process and delivery of humanitarian aid.

"Basically, we've gone out to communities and contracted local people in villages along routes. It varies from US $1 to US $2 a day. So far, we've contracted about 2,000 throughout the country, but we will be likely to contract 3,000 overall," the head of UNJLC, Terri Toyota, told IRIN in the capital, Kabul.

Toyota added that the scheme operated primarily in the central highlands and the west and that there are a couple of teams " probably a few hundred people in the northwest " around Feyzabad and Badakhshan.

In Bamian, Guillaume Limal, the regional coordinator for the French NGO Solidarites, told IRIN his team had five high passes to keep clear. It will employ hundreds of local men on a cash-for food or -work basis, each man receiving either $2 or 14 kg of wheat for a day's work. "Keeping the roads open will be a huge benefit for medical emergencies, commerce, trade and transport, and it also helps reconstruction," Limal said.

"This programme is significant, because, psychologically, it is very important to know that your country does not close down from three to six months of the year. One sign of stability and security is that it stays accessible and stays part of the marketplace throughout the whole year," Toyota said.

The Solidarites team is also marking the route with coloured poles so drivers do not stray into the minefields which the roads often run through. But when the snow has gone, the massive job of reconstructing Afghanistan's roads will still remain.

Afghan Deputy Transport Minister Abdul Hadi Mohseni maintained that all 20,000 km of Afghanistan's roads could be classified as destroyed after two decades of war and neglect. "All over the world, transport is the most important thing. It is like the blood in your veins. If it stops you will die. And if transport stops there will be chaos," Mohseni told IRIN in Kabul.

While the major highways, such as the Kabul-Kandahar-Herat route, will be reconstructed over the next two years with $180 million from the United States, Japan and Saudi Arabia, Mohseni was also keen to see the minor roads asphalted. However, this would require further international aid and maybe tolls in the future. "We need foreign help for financial and engineering work - building the roads we can do ourselves. The people of Afghanistan are very hard-working and will volunteer for the reconstruction of roads."

Mohseni said he hoped one day to be able to make the 500-km trip from Kabul to Kandahar, where he went to university, in less than five hours. At present, the bone-shaking, suspension-wrecking journey can take up to 15 hours due to the state of the road.

In the provinces, many smaller roads have already been reconstructed using local labour. Mercy Corps' representative in Afghanistan, Anita Anastacio, told IRIN it had to be involved in a number of road rehabilitation projects, because local communities kept telling them these were priorities.

"It connects communities and opens up markets for trade, and has provided jobs for communities at a time when they were trying to get back on their feet," Anastacio said, adding that poor roads and transport added to the prices of goods at a time when many people were struggling to afford basics.

The Mercy Corps programme manager, Jorg Denker, said the organisation kept things as local as possible, doing things such as contracting local donkey owners rather than the truck companies so that many needy local people could benefit from the work.

Thanks to one of its projects, the trip between Taloqan and Eshkamesh in the northeast, which used to take five hours, had now been halved. "In an emergency, two hours can save a life," Denker told IRIN in Kabul.

But for Jamshid and the residents of the remote central region normally cut off from the rest of Afghanistan by snow, the work on the roads will be a life-saver of another kind. Instead of living in isolation, they will be able to carry on their businesses, which is a giant step forward on the road to returning to normalcy.


Afghanistan Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment
Source: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) 29 Jan 2003
UNEP report chronicles environmental damage of the Afghanistan conflict
Afghan authorities cooperate in developing green agenda for reconstruction efforts
Kabul, Nairobi, January 29, 2003 - Two decades of warfare in Afghanistan have degraded the environment to the extent it now presents a major stumbling block for the country's reconstruction efforts.

A United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Post-Conflict Environment Assessment report, produced in close cooperation with the Afghanistan Transitional Authority and released today, shows how conflict has put previous environmental management and conservation strategies on hold, brought about a collapse of local and national governance, destroyed infrastructure, hindered agricultural activity and driven people into cities already lacking the most basic public amenities.

Three to four years of drought have compounded a state of widespread and serious resource degradation: lowered water tables, dried up wetlands, denuded forests, eroded land and depleted wildlife populations.

With two million returning refugees in 2002 and a further 1.5 million expected this year, pressure on Afghanistan's natural resources and environmental services are set to increase further.

The UNEP assessment was carried out last year by 20 Afghan and international scientists and experts who examined 38 urban sites in four cities and 35 rural locations.

UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said the report makes it clear that environmental restoration must play a major part in the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

"Over 80 percent of Afghan people live in rural areas, yet they have seen many of their basic resources - water for irrigation, trees for food and fuel - lost in just a generation. In urban areas the most basic necessity for human well being - safe water - may be reaching as few as 12 percent of the people," Mr Toepfer said.

Disposal of solid waste is one of the country's most glaring problems. The assessment team found no dumpsites were taking measures to prevent groundwater contamination or toxic air pollution from burning plastic wastes.

In Kandahar and Herat, dumpsites are sited in dry river valleys above the cities, with the prospect that future heavy rains will wash hundreds, if not thousands, of tonnes of waste back into the city via the river system.

Kabul's Kampani dumpsite is also upstream of the city and close to a well field used to draw drinking water; one likely to expand to meet the city' growing needs.

Tests of drinking water in urban areas revealed high concentrations of bacterial contaminants, Coliforms and E. coli, from contamination by sewage - creating a threat to public health, particularly children who are susceptible to deadly cholera.

The assessment found Kabul's water supply system, damaged during the conflict and lacking routine maintenance, is losing as much as 60 percent of its supply through leaks and illegal use. In Herat only 10 percent of the 150 public taps were found to work.

In Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, Kandahar and Kabul the UNEP team documented medical wastes from hospitals - in some cases even organs and syringes - being disposed of into open streets, uncontrolled dumps and an abandoned well, risking the spread of viral and bacterial diseases and toxic hazards.

However, Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif have initiated recycling and composting schemes, while Herat has significantly reduced cholera cases through chlorination of its water supply, helped by international assistance.

UNEP investigations of oil refineries and transport terminals, and brick, asphalt and lead battery factories revealed acute environmental and human health risks, because of poorly maintained, rudimentary technologies and a lack of management know-how.

In a plastic recycling/shoe factory in Kabul the assessment team found children working without protection from toxic chemicals and sleeping at machines, or in factory alcoves, between their 12 hours shifts.

The rural assessment found widespread loss of forest had occurred across much of the country during the past 30 years.

Satellite imagery reveals that conifer forests in the provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar and Nuristan have been reduced by over a half since 1978. During Mujahadeen and Taliban times up to 200 timber trucks a day, representing the loss of up to 200 hectares of forest, plied the main road in Kunar, according to local officials, probably two thirds of it destined for export markets in Pakistan.

Today local communities have lost control of their resources in these eastern provinces with warlords, 'timber barons' and foreign traders controlling illegal and highly lucrative logging operations.

The assessment also documented the loss of pistachio woodlands in the north; trees from which can produce 35-50 kg of nuts per year, providing significant revenue at US$1 kg. Almost no trees could be detected in Badghis and Takhar provinces in 2002 by satellite instruments, compared to 55 and 37 percent land cover respectively in 1977.

This appears to have been caused by the breakdown of a community forest warden scheme and stockpiling of fuelwood during uncertain political conditions. Later, according to interviews with residents, military forces cut trees to reduce hiding and ambush opportunities for opposing forces.

Goats and sheep are preventing regeneration of many forest areas. As well as controlling grazing one of the proposals being considered by the Afghanistan Transitional Authority is the creation of an "Afghan Conservation Corps", utilizing ex-combatants for reforestation efforts.

In the Amu Darya River, the assessment team found several hundred families had colonised previously unoccupied tugai forest islands - a unique ecosystem and refuge for species such as the Eurasian otter, wild boar, endangered Bactrian deer, waterbirds and birds of prey - to escape conflict. Prior to the Taliban period, local residents widely respected the island's reserve status but the new colonists have been clearing and hunting the area, which covers a 100 km stretch of the river near the border with Tajikistan.

Also in Afghanistan's northern provinces, the assessment team identified potential risks from large stocks of dangerous or illegal pesticides, used in the past for control of insects, including annual infestations of Moroccan locusts.

In the remote Wakhan Corridor, which borders Tajikistan, Pakistan and China, an area rarely visited by UN missions, the assessment team spent two weeks on horseback in areas grazed by the yurt-dwelling Kyrgyz and Wakhi herders. The team confirmed the presence of snow leopards, Marco Polo sheep and species such as wolf, brown bear and Asian ibex.

Hunting pressure - mainly for meat and casual trade in wildlife furs - was much reduced during the period of Soviet occupation, but has increased subsequently. UNEP noted that the Wakhi have responded positively to recent calls by the Afghan Transitional Authority to hand in arms and stop hunting, and the area escaped much of the recent conflict and is free of land mines.

Pekka Haavisto, Chairman the UNEP Afghanistan Task Force said "Afghanistan now has an historic opportunity to get environmental issues integrated in all development plans. Protection of environment and sustainable management of natural resources will also create new job opportunities."

"Some environmental problems have to be tackled immediately. The burning of wastes, contamination between dumpsites or sewerage and drinking water, and the serious chemical threats to young workers at the factories visited by UNEP, are among the most urgent health-related environmental problems in Afghanistan," Mr Haavisto said.

The assessment report contains 163 recommendations, covering environmental legislation and enforcement, capacity building, job creation, planning, environmental impact assessment procedures, industry and trade, public participation and education, and participation in international environmental agreements. It also makes recommendations in relation to water supply, waste, hazardous wastes and chemicals, woodlands and forests, energy, air quality, wildlife and protected areas conservation, desertification and food and agriculture resources and identifies actions at specific urban and rural sites visited during the assessment.

Dr Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, Minister of Irrigation, Water Resources and Environment in the Afghanistan Transitional Authority, said the Government would benefit greatly from the report as it develops the country's environmental policies and plans for rehabilitation.

"UNEP's post-conflict environment assessment illuminates Afghanistan's current levels of degradation, and sets forth a path that the country can take towards sustainable development. It warns us of a future without water, forests, wildlife and clean air if environmental problems are not addressed in the reconstruction period," Minister Nuristani said.

UNEP has assisted in the preparation of the UN's 2003 Transitional Assistance Programme for Afghanistan, which includes priority areas for environmental management, and identifies the funding that is required from the international donor community to implement them.

Minister Nuristani will also present the findings of the assessment to over 100 environment ministers attending UNEP's Governing Council meeting and Global Ministerial Environment Forum in Nairobi, Kenya next week.


Japan grants trade privileged status to Afghanistan
Wednesday, January 29, 2003 5:04 AM EST
KABUL, Jan 29, 2003 (Xinhua via COMTEX) The Japanese government has agreed to grant Afghanistan a trade privileged status, which will allow Afghan products to enter the Japanese market duty free, a senior Afghan official announced Wednesday.

The LDC (less developed countries) status granted by Japan is a special trade status which will provide to Afghanistan a big market with enormous buying power, Afghan Minister of Commerce Sayed Mustafa Kazemi told a press conference.

Under the newly granted status, Afghan products will have a free access to the Japanese market, he said.

The minister said that his ministry had established a formula to upgrade the quality of Afghan exports with a view to fully utilizing special trade statues granted by foreign countries.

Meanwhile, European Union had granted an EBA (Everything But Arms) special trade status to Afghanistan, under which all Afghan products except three items comprising sugar, banana and weapons can enter the EU market, according to the minister.

Earlier this month, the United States granted Afghanistan a Generalized System of Preference (GSP) status, allowing about 5, 700 items of products originating from the country to enter the US market duty free.


Army Major Kills Another Officer Afghanistan
Wed Jan 29, 8:35 AM ET 
SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean army major on peacekeeping duties in Afghanistan accidentally shot dead a junior officer in an row over his telephone manner, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday.

It was the first time a South Korean soldier has been killed on an overseas mission since the Vietnam War.

Major Lee Kyu-sang, 37, fired at Captain Kim Hyo-sung, 33, in their barracks near Bagram Air Base north of the capital, Kabul, Tuesday when the captain refused an order to speak quietly on the telephone while Lee was discussing the leasing of construction equipment with some Afghans, the spokesman said.

"It looks as if the major didn't know his gun was loaded and shot the captain by mistake," he said.

The major was immediately arrested, would be escorted home soon and referred to a court martial, he said. "We've sent an investigator to carry out further inquiries," the spokesman said.

South Korea sent a medical contingent of 99 soldiers to Afghanistan last February as part of the U.N. peacekeeping force in their battle to crush the al Qaeda network blamed for the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.


Russian official: anti-terror operation in Afghanistan has not stemmed flow of illegal drugs
Wed Jan 29, 5:45 AM ET  AP
MOSCOW - The U.S.-led anti-terror operation in Afghanistan has done nothing to reduce the flow of illegal drugs from that country, Russia's Border Guard Service said Wednesday.

"To our great regret, the operation of the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan has not led to significant changes in combating the drug trade," said Alexander Manilov, a senior border guard official.

"Afghanistan has preserved not only plots of land for growing drugs but also warehouses, bases and laboratories with equipment for producing drugs," the Interfax-Military news agency quoted him as saying.

Russia is a major transit point for Afghan opium and heroin making its way from Central Asia to the lucrative markets of Western Europe, and Russian officials have repeatedly complained about the continuing drug trade in Afghanistan.

Russia has 10,700 border guards stationed in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan, bordering Afghanistan, to try to stem the flow of illegal drugs and weapons. Another 10,000 Russian army soldiers are deployed in Tajikistan to help the impoverished country's hardline government maintain security following a five-year civil war that ended in 1997.

Manilov said Russia had provided the U.S. and its allies with data on drug storage and production sites in Afghanistan without result.

"Russia gave its Western partners, including the U.S., information on bases where drugs are stored and places where they are produced. But the fact that the drug flows are not subsiding shows that many of the production facilities have not been destroyed," he said.

He said Russian border guards in Tajikistan had prevented about 90 drug smuggling attempts, detained 65 illegal border crossers, and seized more than 4 metric tons (4.41 short tons) of illegal drugs last year.


Pakistani's Tough Talk: Not Just for India
By Nora Boustany The Washington Post Wednesday, January 29, 2003; Page A14
K hurshid Mahmud Kasuri, foreign minister of Pakistan, was in Washington this week and had blunt words all around for India, his country's chief rival; for U.S. policymakers seeking to walk away from Afghanistan; and for U.S. officials requiring Pakistani citizens to submit to special registration.

A scion of one of Pakistan's most illustrious families, the 61-year-old Kasuri sat down to breakfast with Washington Post editors and reporters Monday, spoke expansively and ate heartily, something most other such visitors almost never manage to do simultaneously.

Kasuri bristled when questioned about Pakistan's nuclear and missile programs, declaring that they were "India-specific" and holding the United States partially responsible for the nuclear race in South Asia, saying U.S. administrations hadn't stood by Pakistan sufficiently in its confrontation with India.

On Kashmir, he challenged India to allow international monitors and human rights investigators into the zone it controls in the region. "India does not want United Nations observers. What is it that India wants to avoid? . . . This movement is largely indigenous," he said, speaking of the Muslim insurgents fighting Indian control in Kashmir. He rejected criticism that Pakistan had not done enough to reduce infiltration across the Line of Control dividing the region.

"Indians cannot be allowed to be accusers, prosecutors and judges in their own cause," he said. "We are prepared to do anything the U.S. suggests for monitoring, but on both sides."

Advocacy and plain speaking come naturally to the Oxford and Cambridge graduate, who is also a barrister at Gray's Inn, one of the four Inns of Court that admit independent lawyers to serve in the courts of England and Wales. He comes from a family with credentials as fighters against British colonial rule and who have often challenged Pakistan's political leaders.

Dressed to the nines in a three-piece wool suit, with gold cuff links and matching tie and suspenders, Kasuri said that Pakistan did not want to isolate itself from the United States, Europe or Japan, because India would take advantage of that.

He said U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan should not be seduced into chasing people identified as terrorists by self-serving tribal warlords along the Pakistani border. He said there should be no "hot pursuit" of suspects into Pakistan, but rather the Pakistani army should be made aware of the suspects and relied on to do its job. Otherwise, he said, there will be an impression "that there is lack of trust between the Pakistani army and the United States, and that is suicide."

With Washington now focusing so closely on Iraq, he warned that U.S. distraction or disengagement from the process begun in Afghanistan would be "disastrous." "That's our real nightmare," he said. "Iraq or no Iraq, Iraq is just the latest topic. Afghanistan needs to be cleansed and rebuilt democratically for the people there to have a stake in stability."

Because Pakistan has taken big risks in behalf of the United States, Kasuri said, Washington should remove Pakistan from a list of countries whose male citizens over age 16 who are in the United States are generally required to register with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

"Take us off the list," the minister said, "or at least use administrative discretion available under the law in favor of Pakistanis."

Going to Bat for Bangladesh
The foreign minister of Bangladesh was also in Washington this week to signal his government's disappointment with his country's inclusion on that immigration list. But Morshed Khan's style was more low-key.

In an interview, he said he did not come to ask U.S. officials to revoke their decision, but to offer his country's views and to underline its "humble" contributions to peacekeeping around the world, with 26 missions in all, and to world economic development. He cited such programs as "micro-lending" to female entrepreneurs and infrastructure-building in such war-torn countries as Sierra Leone.

Khan met with top officials at the State Department, the Pentagon, the National Security Council and the Justice Department, as well as senators. He called on think tanks and business groups. Those meetings left him feeling that there was now a "greater understanding of how Bangladesh feels."

He suggested that better coordination and clearer criteria were needed to differentiate between terrorists and people who had "just overstayed their visas."

He pointed out that even Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, with whom Khan met Monday, said several weeks ago that Bangladesh should serve as a model for other nations. So Bangladeshis were "shocked" to find themselves on the list, he said.

An International Mandate for Iraq
An official from a small Persian Gulf country that is friendly to the United States told Washington Post editors and reporters yesterday that any postwar government of Iraq should be a U.N. or other international mandate, with Iraqi citizens at high levels. It should not be run by a foreign official, military or otherwise, said this official, who asked not to be identified.

"It is not good for America to bring in a General MacArthur," he said, referring to the U.S. commander who effectively ruled Japan after its surrender in 1945. "A U.N. role, infused with Iraqi leadership," would be much more acceptable to Arab Muslim countries, he said.

As for Iraqi opposition groups abroad, they lost credibility as a governing body while meeting in London in December, he said: "If they could not run a conference, how could they run a country? You could have civil war if they go in."


Pakistan Radical Party Wants U.S. Limits
The Washington Post By Kathy Gannon Associated Press Writer Tuesday, January 28, 2003; 11:27 AM
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Pakistan's religious right, in a reflection of growing outrage against the United States, called Tuesday for the fingerprinting of Americans,  boycott of U.S. products and compulsory  AIDS testing of U.S. visitors.

A coalition of Islamic parties, which gained considerable political clout in October general elections, presented its demands in a list to the government and threatened nationwide demonstrations to push for them. While a boycott would be up to consumers, the government said Fingerprinting or mandatory HIV tests - which the government would control - were out of the question.

"Such demands cannot be accepted," Interior Ministry spokesman Iftikar Ahmad said, without elaborating. He accused the religious right of trying to make trouble for President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and the pro-military government that is a staunch ally of the U.S. war on terror.

"Religious leaders keep making such absurd demands. ... Such statements serve no cause except to create problems for the government," Ahmad said.

The demand for fingerprinting reflects Pakistani anger over new U.S. requirements that require citizens of Pakistan and other countries  living in the United States to be fingerprinted and photographed by immigration agents.  Pakistan has complained about the new immigration regulations.

A coalition of six radical Islamic parties known as the United Action Forum won unprecedented support in October 2002 elections on a strong anti-American platform. They came in third nationwide and won control of two important Pakistani provinces bordering Afghanistan.

The parties that make up the coalition sympathize with the Taliban, Support their hardline interpretation of Islam and believe, as the Taliban did, that it is against Islamic tenets to betray a fellow Muslim.

"We will protest throughout the country to rally support" for the demands, said Liaqat Baluch, a member of the coalition party Jamaat-e-Islami. Baluch said the coalition also wants the government to expel FBI agents And put an end to their role in searches and arrests of Pakistanis. FBI officials have apparently been involved in the arrest of at least two doctors in the eastern city Lahore. The physicians were detained because of alleged links to al-Qaida. One doctor, Ahmad Javed Khawaja, a naturalized American, is still in custody.

"It is the integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan that is at stake here," said Ameer ul-Azeem, a spokesman for the religious coalition.

"Would the United States allow Pakistani security agency men to search homes in America? We also have Pakistanis who are wanted here and hiding in the United States, but our law enforcement agencies can't go there and arrest them," he said.

The religious right also wants Musharraf to close Pakistani bases to The U.S. military. Currently, the United States occupies five bases in Pakistan where it provides logistic support to its 8,000 soldiers in Afghanistan.  Musharraf has vowed continued support for the war on terror.


Cheney meets Pakistani foreign minister
Agence France Presse  - January 29, 2003 Wednesday
US Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday met Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, and praised Islamabad's support for the US anti-terror campaign, Pakistani diplomats said.

Cheney welcomed Kasuri to his Washington residence, a day before the Foreign minister is due to meet Secretary of State Colin Powell. "The Foreign Minister was warmly received and the meeting was conducted in a warm and friendly atmosphere," the Pakistani embassy said in a statement.

"The Vice President appreciated Pakistans cooperation in the war on terrorism and said that Pakistani officials are enormously helpful in this joint struggle," the embassy said in a statement.

Kasuri raised the question of the strict new immigration restrictions imposed in the United States on vistors from more than 20 countries as part of a new anti-terror drive.

In a television appearance on Sunday, Kasuri said the restrictions Unfairly targeted Muslim nations, and could spark a backlash against Pakistan's government by outraged fundamentalists.

"We are your allies, don't create problems for us on the ground in Pakistan," Kasuri said in a television interview on the C-Span public affairs channel.

"We are a moderate government, our opponents are dying to have a swipe at us and you are providing them ammunition.  Kasuri met Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Monday.

His visit comes as Washington is making a case for for possible Military action against Iraq if it continues to stymie UN inspections.

Kasuri, whose country hold a rotating seat on the UN Security Council, Has said his country wanted "unanimity" on the council before any action is taken.

Washington has relied heavily on Pakistan for intelligence and access To bases and territory in its war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in 2001.


Pakistani police round up 21 Islamic militants
Agence France Presse PESHAWAR, Pakistan, January 29, 2003 Wednesday 3:26 AM Eastern Time
Pakistani police said Wednesday they had arrested 21 Islamic militants allegedly trying to revive the outlawed Harkatul Mujahedin, listed by Washington as a terrorist group.

"They belong to the Harkatul Mujahedin group," Abid Saeed, deputy inspector general of police in North West Frontier Province, told AFP. Saeed said police were informed that the group had opened an office under a new name in Dera Ismail Khan, 300 kilometers (186 miles) southwest of the captal Islamabad and 150 kilometers (93 miles) east from the Afghan border.

Police raided the office, seized weapons and ammunition, and took the Men into custody. The United States included Harkatul Mujahedin, whose followers fought Indian rule in the Muslim majority Himalayan state of Kashmir, on its list of terrorist outfits published in late 2001.

Pakistan subsequently closed its offices and froze its bank accounts. The men have been detained under the Maintenance of Public Order act Under which suspects can be held for 12 months without trial.

"We are interrogating them and some of them appear to have travelled to Afghanistan for jihad (holy war). They were regrouping under the name Of Jamiatul Ansar," Saeed said.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf launched a crackdown on extremist organisations one year ago, banning five other Islamic militant groups and ordering the arrests of thousands of their members.

Hundreds of those arrested, including the leaders of banned Kashmiri Groups Jaish-i-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba, have since been released by court order on the grounds of lack of evidence.


First Ever Afghan Film Becomes Oscar Hopeful The Acclaimed and Controversial FireDancer Also to Screen at Tribeca Film Festival
Wednesday, January 29, 2003 10:32 AM EST
NEW YORK, Jan 29, 2003 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ FireDancer, the first Afghanistan candidate for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, also will be invited to the 2nd Annual Tribeca Film Festival in New York City from May 6 - 11.

"We are honored to present the first Afghan film in history to be considered by the Academy for an Oscar nomination and to be selected for the Tribeca Film Festival," said John G. Roche, FireDancer producer and President of New York-based Petunia Productions. "FireDancer resonates with the challenge to both preserve and assimilate faced by all immigrants, each of whom must settle in his or her own way."

Filmed in Afghanistan, New York City, and Washington D.C. with an all-Afghan cast, FireDancer was written and directed by the late Jawed Wassel, who was murdered by producer Nathan Chandler Powell in October 2001.

"Jawed Wassel was an Afghan patriot and American citizen and an artist devoted to both of his countries. His Afghan American colleagues are dedicated to help preserve his work and make it known," added Vida Zaher-Khadem, FireDancer's associate director.

FireDancer held its world premiere in September 2002 in Kabul, Afghanistan, where it was shown at a free public screening in the Ghazi Stadium, site of the infamous Taliban executions. Vida Zaher-Khadem and John G. Roche are also completing a companion documentary titled Return to Afghanistan, which features the life and work of the late Wassel, who fled Afghanistan as an adolescent refugee before settling in New York City.

FireDancer is the first independent family drama feature to depict the life of Afghan-Americans. Its hero, Haris, is sent away from Soviet-occupied Afghanistan to New York City where, as an adult, he pursues a career as an avant-garde artist. Troubled in his soul, he turns to the local Afghan community to search for his cultural roots. Among those he meets is Laila, an aspiring fashion designer at odds with her family's traditionalist views. As Haris and Laila travel their individual journeys of discovery, FireDancer provides a candid look at the manners and mores of America's Afghan diaspora. In its course, several generations embrace paradox and compromise as they struggle for self-definition.



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