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Tajikistan: President Meets Envoy To Discuss UN Murders

Dushanbe, 22 July 1998 (RFE/RL) - Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov met the UN secretary-general's envoy to Tajikistan, Jan Kubis, in Dushanbe today to discuss the murder of three UN observers and a Tajik interpreter. Rakhmonov blamed what he termed "traitors" for the killings Monday and said every effort will be made to solve the crime. The three UN observers were from Japan, Poland and Uruguay.

Rakhmonov announced a special government commission has been set up to find and punish the attackers. He ordered increased protection for UN workers, fired two deputy defense ministers and reprimanded several other officials for failing to prevent the attack.

The UN has called on the Tajik government and the United Tajik Opposition to conduct a thorough investigation and find the perpetrators.

The deputy chief of the Islamic opposition, Khodj-Akbar Turajonzodeh, told AFP by telephone, that the killings were a "terrorist act" and an "attempt to discredit the opposition."

The killings occurred some 170 kilometers east of Dushanbe. Kubis has recalled UN staff to Dushanbe for security reasons in the wake of the murders.

One of the victims was a Japanese citizen and earlier today, Japanese foreign minister Keizo Obuchi said his country is seeking "severe punishment" for the murderers. The other two victims were observers from Poland and Uruguay.

Meanwhile in neighboring Afghanistan, the Taliban militia today in a bid to calm fears of a shortage of aid in Kabul following the departure of foreign aid groups, promised that God and the United Nations will provide.

More than 30 NGOs were forced out of Kabul on Monday and yesterday after they refused to relocate residences and offices to Kabul's isolated and dilapidated polytechnic. The European Union suspended its aid last weekend.

European Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner Emma Bonino today defended the EU's suspension of aid to Afghanistan.

Bonino said it is impossible for the EU to accept "new dictates" of the Taliban Islamic militia. She said EU aid was being distributed in a discriminatory way because very little was reaching women.

United Nations Security Council President Sergei Lavrov, of Russia, has condemned the forced withdrawal of aid workers who refused to the polytechnic, which lacks electricity and water.

UN regional coordinator Jolyon Leslie said he is concerned that disease will soon break out because drinking water pumps operated by French and British aid groups have already broken down.

Meanwhile, The International Red Cross says Afghanistan's warring factions silenced their heavy guns on the frontlines north of Kabul yesterday for an exchange of 140 prisoners.