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U-N Refugee Agency: 252-Million Dollars Needed for Looming Refugee - 2001-09-26


The U-N refugee agency says it needs 252-million dollars to provide emergency humanitarian relief for refugees who are fleeing Afghanistan, fearing U-S military strikes. The agency says it is preparing for as many as one-and-one-half million to cross into neighboring countries.

U-N High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers says his agency's appeal is based on an estimate of what he calls a "worst-case scenario." But, he says, the U-N refugee agency must be prepared for the worst.

United Nations officials expect nearly one-million Afghan people to flee into Pakistan. They also expect about 400-thousand Afghan refugees to cross into Iran, 50-thousand to arrive in Tajikistan and 50-thousand to arrive in Turkmenistan.

The agency says it could deploy up to 700 international and local workers to deal with the heavy inflows of Afghan refugees. More than 500 U-N staff members are already in the region.

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the world will hold Afghanistan's ruling Taleban responsible if it blocks shipments of food supplies to starving people there.

The secretary-general's comment came (Tuesday) one day after officials of the U-N's World Food Program said the Taleban took over their offices in the Afghan city of Kandahar and seized 14-hundred tons of food. The Taleban is also blocking U-N workers in Afghanistan from communicating with the outside world.

Mr. Annan says civilians in Afghanistan face a desperate situation. The World Food Program -- which has been feeding millions of people affected by war and drought -- estimates that hundreds of thousands of Afghans may exhaust agency food supplies within a week.

Food shipments into the country were suspended on September 12th, one day after the terrorist strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the United States. The Food Program said Tuesday it will try to resume the shipments, but that transportation is extremely difficult.

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