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Afghanistan: Annan Warns World Must Increase Involvement Or Risk 'Failure'

United Nations, 9 December 2003 (RFE/RL) -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the international community must decide whether to increase its level of involvement in Afghanistan or risk failure. The warning comes in an annual report by Annan to the UN General Assembly released yesterday in New York.

Introducing the report, Jean-Marie Guehenno, the U.N. undersecretary for peacekeeping, said the next 12 months are critical if the process to set up a democratic government is to succeed.

Annan's report cites unchecked criminality, outbreaks of factional fighting, and the illegal narcotics trade as "negative impacts" on that process. Annan's report also cautioned that insurgents are gaining ground, striking at UN and other relief workers.

In the report, Annan said he wants another conference like the one in Bonn two years ago that began Afghanistan's democratic process.

Guehenno said talks on such a conference are under way with Afghan officials. "Depending on how things develop, this is something that could gain traction and happen," he said. "I think it has to happen in a natural way as something that reflects the needs of the Afghan people and that's how the mission is approaching it."

Annan's report also noted some positive developments in Afghanistan. It said, for example, 829,000 more school children are back in classrooms this year. And it said 2.5 million people had received repatriation aid.