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UN: Top Official Repeats Appeal For Expanded Force In Afghanistan

The chief UN representative in Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, has warned that the country's peace process is increasingly threatened by poor security conditions. Brahimi urged the UN Security Council to consider expanding the authority for an international force outside Kabul to safeguard election preparations. The Council released a statement calling on Afghanistan's neighbors and all actors in the country to support the peace process but did not signal any intention of expanding security.

United Nations, 7 May 2003 (RFE/RL) -- UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi says ethnic clashes and challenges to national and international authority are intensifying in Afghanistan ahead of crucial preparations for elections.

Brahimi told the UN Security Council yesterday that security problems pose a threat to efforts to mount nationwide campaigns to draft a constitution and hold elections.

Brahimi said that in most of the country, security remains unstable and insufficient to safeguard the peace process launched at a UN-sponsored conference held in Bonn, Germany, in December 2001.

He appealed to the Security Council to consider authorizing an expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) beyond the Kabul region. "I would ask the council once again to carefully consider what international measures are available to help ensure the security needed for the Bonn process to effectively proceed," Brahimi said.

The council has declined repeated requests by UN and Afghan officials to expand the authorization of the international force, which numbers about 5,000. That force will come under the command of NATO in August, but there has been no signal of any expansion.

One council diplomat told RFE/RL after private consultations yesterday that Brahimi's appeal "did not stimulate any new discussion" on strengthening the peacekeeping mandate in Afghanistan.

The council released a statement after yesterday's meeting expressing concern at the deterioration of security. It called on Afghanistan's neighbors and all member states to support the peace process.

The council also renewed its call for reforms in Afghanistan's nascent security sector. In particular, it said all factions in Afghanistan should support the building of a new national army and police and the beginning of a national disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration campaign.

Brahimi earlier stressed that Afghanistan's partners must make clear they will not deal with the factional leaders who continue to control a number of regions. Those leaders, he said, must relinquish their power and face up to new responsibilities. "There can be no room in this new Afghanistan for private armies, for private jails, for arbitrary arrests, for brutality, for corruption, for discrimination on ethnic or any other grounds," he said.

In addition to ISAF personnel, more than 10,000 U.S.-led coalition forces remain in Afghanistan to seek out Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last week in Kabul that the combat phase of operations in Afghanistan is largely over. He said military forces have begun shifting their focus to civil-assistance and reconstruction projects.

Brahimi yesterday welcomed the U.S. move toward deploying reconstruction teams in Afghanistan's provinces but also requested the expansion of the ISAF mandate. He cited disturbing developments throughout the country, including reports of opposition fighters crossing the border from Pakistan into eastern and southern areas of Afghanistan.

The meeting two weeks ago between Pakistan's leader Pervez Musharraf and Afghan Transitional Authority Chairman Hamid Karzai came at a crucial time to address security concerns and bolster relations, Brahimi said.

Pakistan's UN ambassador, Munir Akram, told reporters yesterday that his government is determined to track down and turn over any Taliban supporters found on its territory. "We have committed with President Karzai to pursue all elements who are opposed to the Karzai transitional authority, and we shall do so and are doing so very effectively," he said.

Pakistan has arrested more than 400 Taliban and Al-Qaeda suspects since 11 September 2001. It points to the arrests as a sign of its commitment to fighting terrorism and stabilizing Afghanistan. But some observers say the high figure indicates the large-scale presence of Afghan militants in the country.

The challenges in pressing reforms in Afghanistan were also highlighted yesterday by Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief. Solana was at UN headquarters to discuss the Mideast road map and postwar Iraq issues.

But in response to a reporter's question, Solana also urged the international community to remain engaged in Afghanistan. "Elections have to take place in 2004, and still there are many things that have not been done for those elections," he said. "So maintain the focus on all the things that we have started and not change focus rapidly because that is the guarantee that none of them probably would be solved."

UN officials have begun planning for national voter registration in advance of elections in 2004. Brahimi said security will be vital for the organization of elections, which will involve the training of 3,000 Afghans. They will need to spend time in each of the country's nearly 400 districts and visit thousands of villages.