Thu, Nov 13, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Afghanistan instability kills progress

PEACE THREATENED An explosion outside the UN offices in Kandahar led to officials saying that crime, fighting and terrorism are hampering development

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , UNITED NATIONS

Terrorism, drug-related crime and factional fighting in Afghanistan threaten to reverse advances in the rebuilding of the country and jeopardize efforts to form a democratically elected government, the German ambassador here told the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

His comments came several hours after a car bomb exploded outside the UN offices in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, injuring at least two people, UN officials said.

German Mmbassador Gunter Pleuger, who led a Security Council mission to Afghanistan last week, said the delegates had seen how "the lack of security -- some call it `the rule of the gun' -- affected the entire Afghan peace process."

The Taliban, al-Qaeda and forces loyal to renegade commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar were contributing to the insecurity and posed a "significant threat" to the national security forces, Pleuger added.

Speaking to reporters later, Pleuger warned that the Bonn agreement, which established the interim government and a timeline leading to national elections next year, "is not yet assured to be successful."

The council's observations challenge the prevailing message sounded by the government of President Hamid Karzai that the political process in Afghanistan is under control.

The council also sounded a louder alarm than it had at news conferences in Afghanistan, where its comments were relatively subdued.

Mexican Ambassador to the UN Adolfo Aguilar Zinser said in an interview this week that there was a wide gulf between the Karzai government's views and that held by others, including nongovernmental organizations.

"He was very confident of his authority and the extension of his authority," said Zinser.

"But civic organizations and NGO's consider that there's a high degree of impunity and Karzai's ability to exercise his authority is eroding," he said.

The delegation's visit, which included ambassadors or high-level envoys from the 15 member nations of the council, was intended to signal the UN's commitment to the peace process and to urge provincial warlords and other local authorities to participate in the Bonn process and cooperate with the Karzai government.

During its five-day survey, the council discovered that while Afghan officials have largely achieved the benchmarks of the Bonn agreement, which established the interim government and a timeline leading to national elections next year, "the conditions necessary for a credible political process are not yet in place," Pleuger said.

Intransigent commanders have ignored demands to appoint provincial officials and pay taxes, and a lack of funding and security has imperiled the electoral registration process, the council found.

The bombing in Kandahar blew out the windows of at least two UN buildings. It resonated throughout the UN, which suffered two attacks on its mission in Baghdad this year and withdrew the last of its non-Iraqi staff from Baghdad last week.

A local security guard working for the mission and an Afghan civilian were injured, Fred Eckhard, a UN spokesman, said.

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