Development News from Afghanistan

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UN calls for release of employee held in Afghan row

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Sun Dec 30, 8:45 AM ET

KABUL (AFP) – The top UN representative in Afghanistan called on authorities Sunday to free a local employee detained in a diplomatic row that also saw two foreign officials expelled.

The government last Thursday expelled two Western officials — the second most senior European Union official in Afghanistan and a top UN political advisor here — accusing them of threatening national security.

Kabul said an unknown number of the pair’s Afghan colleagues had been arrested and were being questioned by authorities.

The UN representative to Afghanistan, Tom Koenigs, said the incident was a “misunderstanding” and called on the US-backed government here to free a local UN consultant arrested for links to the diplomats.

“We’re certainly concerned that one consultant working for us is still in jail and we’ll do everything to get him out,” Koenigs said on the last day of his mission in Afghanistan, without giving details of the detained man.

The Afghan government has said the two expelled officials made contact with the Taliban during visits to the southern province of Helmand, a stronghold of the Islamic rebels.

One official said the two — Irish national Michael Semple with the EU and Briton Mervyn Patterson — had given money to the rebels.

Koenigs dismissed the charges against the employee of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) as “misunderstandings.”

“We at UNAMA are not making intelligence operations. We’ve no money to pay to anybody because we don’t make projects,” he said, adding the UN was in talks with President Hamid Karzai’s government to resolve the row.

Koenigs said he hoped that time and coordination between government bodies would clear the pair of the allegations.

The UN mission has watched over the political development and reconstruction of Afghanistan since the toppling of the Taliban in 2001 following the September 11 attacks by the Al-Qaeda network.

After two years in Afghanistan, Koenigs said he was departing with mixed feelings of “hope and concern.”

“Afghanistan is moving from being a country decimated by decades of conflict to a progressive Islamic democracy, striving to improve the lives of its people,” Koenigs said.

“However, I share the same concern as the Afghan people for the security situation, particularly in the south of the country,” he said.

Violence, mainly from an insurgency the Taliban launched months after their toppling, has increased in the past two years.

Along with the increased insecurity, opium poppy cultivation has risen to record levels.

“With such a huge illegal economy the legal economy can not prosper. So efforts must be made, success must be achieved in counternarcotics,” Koenigs said.

The Central Asian nation produced 8,200 tonnes of opium this year, a 34 percent increase on last year’s output.


Written by afghandevnews

December 31, 2007 at 6:02 pm

Posted in Security

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