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UN: Tajik Success Must Now Be Nurtured

The United Nations has just concluded a successful peacekeeping mission in Tajikistan. The UN's special representative in the country, Ivo Petrov, says it is now crucial to nurture the Central Asian state through economic and humanitarian assistance. UN correspondent Robert McMahon reports.

United Nations, 17 May 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Tajikistan says economic aid will play a key role in the transformation of the war-damaged country now that the U.N peace mission there is over.

Ivo Petrov told a press conference on Tuesday that although the seven-year peacekeeping mission is over, many UN agencies remain committed to Tajikistan. He said among the agencies active in Tajikistan are the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the UN Development Program and the UN refugee agency.

"They are present and on the ground and have a lot to do in a country where you have unemployment, where the social safety net has collapsed, where the health system has also collapsed and where, through international assistance, the country is getting more than 60 percent of the medicine used in the country."

Petrov says the United Nations will also continue to play a political role in Tajikistan by assisting in nation building. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will make a recommendation soon to the Security Council on establishing a post-conflict UN office in Tajikistan. Many council members favored such a move during a meeting last week that marked the end of the UN mission there.

The UN special representative appealed for economic aid to Tajikistan. He said the country's economic sector has been neglected by the international community for most of the peace process.

"The international community was helpful in overcoming humanitarian crises in the country during these seven years, but what is necessary now is economic assistance to the country to underpin the achievements of the peace process and to stabilize additionally the country."

Petrov said another area of concern was the ongoing civil war in neighboring Afghanistan, where millions of ethnic Tajiks live. He said the problems in Afghanistan could still destabilize Tajikistan.

But he saluted the political will of the two sides in Tajikistan -- the government and the United Tajik Opposition -- for succeeding where parties in many other conflicts have failed.

Also noteworthy, he says, was the assistance provided by regional states such as Russia and Iran in guiding the peace process along.

"The contact group of guarantor states [and] international organizations which has functioned for two and one-half years and has held more than 130 meetings was very instrumental in advising the government, giving expertise and good offices in the periodic crises which occurred during the implementation of the general agreement."

The United Nations has tried, so far unsuccessfully, to engage states neighboring Afghanistan to assist in the peace process there. But a number of Afghanistan's neighbors are suspected of fueling the warfare by contributing arms.