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U-N-H-C-R: Keep Borders Open To Afghan Refugees - 2001-09-20


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, is urging Afghanistan's neighbors again to keep their borders open to Afghan refugees.

Mr. Lubbers says the U-N refugee agency is asking for only temporary protection for Afghans fleeing their homes. He says the U-N agency will work to return the refugees to their homes as soon as circumstances allow.

Meanwhile, Tajikistan's President Emomali Rakhmonov has said refugees fleeing any U-S retaliatory strikes in Afghanistan will not be permitted into Tajikistan.

President Rakhmonov made his comments during a visit to the Tajik-Afghan border with the secretary of Russia's Security Council, Vladimir Rushailo.

Mr. Rakhmonov says Tajikistan cannot accept any new Afghan refugees because the country is already short of food. He also says the border with Afghanistan must be sealed to prevent the possibility of new arrivals bringing what he called the agents of "various terrorist organizations" onto Tajik soil.

Elsewhere, along the Iran-Afghan border, Iranian authorities are setting up refugee camps on Afghan soil and calling on relief organizations to help provide services to the refugees in those camps.

Iran has also ordered its troops to seal its 900-kilometer border with Afghanistan.

The German news agency reports the U-N Childrens' Emergency Fund has planned six relief flights to provide assistance for refugees in Afghanistan and neighboring countries. The planes with the cargo will leave from Norway on Saturday.

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