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Afghanistan: Commanders Reach Agreement On Refugees

Mazar-e Sharif, 28 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Rival commanders in northern Afghanistan have signed a joint agreement intended to ease the return of Afghan refugees to homes in the north. Ethnic Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostam, rival ethnic Tajik leader Atta Mohammad, and other factional leaders signed the document today in Mazar-e Sharif.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers met with the leaders to broker the agreement. His spokeswoman, Maki Hinohara, said the pact is a significant step toward repatriating more than 700,000 refugees from northern Afghanistan.

Thousands of ethnic Pashtuns in camps in southern Afghanistan have refused to return to their homes in the north out of fear of ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks who dominate the region. There has been frequent fighting between warriors loyal to Dostum and Mohammad in various northern provinces over the last year.