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Tajikistan: U.N. Observers Still On Duty As Fighting Continues

Dushanbe, 6 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - The United Nation special envoy to Tajikistan, German diplomat Gerd Merrem, denies reports of a general withdrawal of U.N. observers from posts around the country.

Some Russian and Western reports yesterday quoted U.N. officials in Tajikistan as saying observers were being recalled from outposts to Dushanbe for security reasons. But Merrem tells RFE/RL that only the observer post in the eastern city of Garm has been vacated -- and only temporarily. There has been intense fighting recently in the Garm area between government forces and Islamic opposition forces.

In a statement provided to RFE/RL's Tajikistan service yesterday, U.N. monitors also cite use of force, physical assaults and threats against members of their teams by government forces. Merrem expressed grave concern over continued fighting, especially danger to civilians, saying "the destruction of the country continues."

The U.N. maintains a small observer force to monitor a ceasefire in the Tajikistan conflict. The ceasefire has not been generally honored.